Jim Crow was the term known as the racial caste system that mainly occurred between 1877 and the mid-1960s in the southern and border states. In addition to strict anti-black legislation, Jim Crow was a system of oppression as slavery was imposed on African-Americans during Jim Crow, making them second-class citizens (HIST 271 Civil Rights Movement). Anti-black bigotry was given legal cover under the Jim Crow laws. According to the Jim Crow period, whites were perceived as more intelligent, moral, and civilized than African Americans. As a result, they were subjected to violence and racial discrimination. Therefore, this essay examines the injustices experienced by African Americans following the rise of Jim Crow and demonstrates how Civil Rights Movement challenged these injustices.
Etiquette rules common under Jim Crow, such as shaking hands with a white man, meant that a black man was on an equal footing, thus, he could not extend his hand. Any portion of his body he offered to a white woman, such as his hand, was off-limits since doing so would jeopardize him for rape charges. According to Kim, it was against the law for blacks and whites to dine together. A black man’s offering to light a white woman’s cigarette was never acceptable since it signified a level of closeness. White people did not use polite titles like “Mr.” and “Mrs.” while referring to black people to show respect. Instead, they addressed them by their first names. A black passenger in a white driver’s automobile or truck was required to sit in the rear seat. At all junctions, white drivers had the right-of-way and because of the oppressive “Jim Crow” system of segregation and racism, it was almost hard for African Americans to utilize their newfound freedoms.
Hundreds of civil rights activists defied racial seclusion in interstate transportation through the American Civil Rights Movement. This is the story told in the documentary film Freedom Riders. To ensure equitable access to terminal eateries and waiting rooms, the activists traveled together in small multiracial groups and sat wherever they pleased on buses and trains (HIST 271 Civil Rights Movement). National attention was drawn to southern U.S. racial segregation via their efforts. The freedom riders faced significant opposition from the government and civilians, especially in Birmingham. For instance, a Police commissioner labeled Bull Connor promised that no one would be imprisoned if the hordes of Klansmen disrupted the arrival of the buses and assaulted, maimed, and burned the passengers. Around 400 Americans that had taken part in the freedom rides by the autumn of 1961 were attacked and arrested.
Segregation was enforced in public locations, including public transit, public spaces, public schools, bathrooms, restaurants, and drinking fountains. Despite the terrible racism, mob violence, and incarceration that these activists encountered, they were successful on September 22, 1961, in desegregating the buses and bus facilities throughout the Deep South (HIST 271 Civil Rights Movement). They fought for justice and freedom for African Americans via peaceful protest. Blacks were prohibited from participating in professional and amateur sports during the Jim Crow era. The Olympics, which did not have such strict racial laws, were a haven for African-American athletes to shine, frequently taking home gold and establishing world records. Even though it was against the law for blacks to learn to read and write under slavery, many found methods to do so anyhow. Many black people have succeeded in education, writing, science, philosophy, and theology despite slavery’s “compulsory ignorance laws” and segregated, inadequate schools under Jim Crow.
The governments of Jim Crow implemented laws that drastically restricted inter-racial intercourse. Public facilities, including schools and hospitals, were marked with Jim Crow signage. There was a noticeable disparity in the quality of black facilities compared to their white counterparts, with older, less well-maintained facilities dominating. It was legal for white people to abuse black people physically. As a result of the Jim Crow criminal justice system, which consisted solely of white police officers, prosecutors, judges, juries, and jail officials, blacks had no legal protection from these attacks. Vigilantes’ violent activities furthered the Jim Crow system, which was supported and promoted by local government authorities (HIST 271 Civil Rights Movement). Civil rights activists and protestors worked determinedly for years to bring change to eradicate seclusion, black voter suppression, discriminatory occupation, housing policies, and other inequalities.
Even though segregation was officially forbidden, Jim Crow rules persisted in the Deep South. These rules were organized in law, endorsed by the law court, and imposed by the pervasive threat of physical ferocity even more than lawful retribution. A significant victory for the Riders was getting the federal government to enforce the federal legislation that allows interstate travel to be integrated. The rules and etiquette of Jim Crow were based on the threat and reality of violence. Every element of the daily lives of African Americans was affected by Jim Crow legislation as their lives were put in danger if they understood any activities, such as drinking water from a designated white-labeled fountain or attempting to vote.
‘‘HIST 271 Civil Rights Movement.’’ YouTube, uploaded by Jessica Kim, 2021.