Jim Crow Laws Origins and End


Jim Crow Laws were both state and local laws that were carried out in the United States from the Year 1876 to 1965. “The rules included: segregation in public schools, public places, public transportation, and restrooms for whites and blacks” (Woodward: 87). They were different from the black codec laws which restricted the civil rights of Black Americans. The Crow rules started to diminish in the year 1954 when the supreme court of the United States declared State-sponsored School segregation as unconstitutional. The remaining Crow laws were completely abolished in the year 1964 when both the civil rights and the 1965 voting rights acts were sighed.

Jim Crow Laws Origin

In the year 1870 white democrats managed to get to the power of the Southern State by intimidating their opponents and attacking blacks and preventing them from taking part in elections. There was a wave of violence that lasted throughout the campaign period of the 1870 Southern elections. But in the year 1877, a compromise was agreed upon that led to the withdrawal of the federal troops from the South. The redeemer Democratic Party took power when the federal troops finally left. Being a white people party it legislated for the Jim Crow laws that were aimed at isolating Black people from the state’s white population (David: 9). In the 1880s the number of Blacks and poor whites voters decreased due to the fact that the democrats were passing laws that had the intention of making voter registration and election stricter. Mississippi was the first state to pass new constitutional laws aimed at disfranchising Blacks and poor whites by introducing “poll taxes, literacy and comprehension tests, and residency and record-keeping requirements”. “They also introduced Grandfather clauses which temporarily permitted some poor white people to vote” (David: 9). other southern States followed Mississippi’s footsteps and this led to a drastic fall of voters (Woodward: 81).

By being deprived of the right to vote, Blacks and poor whites could not work injuries or in any local office. They also could not have any impact on the state legislatures. Generally, their interests were overlooked. Though the rebuilding parliament established public schools, those of Blacks were poorly funded. In some instances, the measures introduced to decrease election fraud were pitted against the Blacks and poor whites that had no formal education. As the isolation of the Blacks was becoming formalized and legalized, it was also becoming customary, for instance, Black people were also isolated in cases where Jim Crow laws did not apply like sports and Church services; this was during the 1890s (Woodward: 87).

Numerous blacks never participated in the 1912 United States Presidential elections. “This was because at that time most of them were in the South where they had been completely disfranchised” (Desmond: 3). Poll taxes and literacy requirements exempted many Blacks from participating in the election yet the same laws had many flaws which exempted white people from paying poll taxes or being literate; for example in Oklahoma anyone who had ever participated in elections before 1866 or was related to anyone who participated in the elections before the same year was exempted from the literacy requirement. The only people who were allowed to vote before the year 1866 were whites-only; therefore this law’s aim was to exempt white people from the literacy requirement while Blacks were segregated by the law (Woodward 90).

The situation worsened further when Woodrow Wilson was elected as the first southern president in the postwar period. He appointed many southerners to his cabinet. The southerners’ appointment introduced segregation in Washington DC and federal offices. Wilson introduced the segregation laws in public offices because he believed that the laws were in the best interest of both the Black and the white Americans.

Attempts to break the Jim Crow laws

Charles Sumner and Benjamin Butler introduced the first civil rights act in 1875. “The act stated that everyone regardless of race or color had to be treated the same in public accommodations such as bars, hotels, public means of transportation, theaters and other recreation facilities” (Desmond 3). the act however had very little impact because the Supreme Court ruled out that the act was unconstitutional. With the whites occupying most seats in congress, no other civil rights law was passed until the year 1957 (Woodward 92).

In the year 1890, the Louisiana state passed a law that saw the separation of Blacks and Whites accommodation in trains. Concerned Blacks, colored and white citizens formed a movement in New Orleans that aimed at repealing the law. The group pleaded with Homer Plessey who had minor Black characteristics to test the law. Plessey agreed and in the year 1892 he purchased a train ticket in New Orleans, once he got the ticket he informed the train conductor of his racial situation and the conductor directed him to the colored people section only, Plessey objected and he was arrested (David 9).

The citizen committee of New Orleans fought the case in favor of Plessey but they, however, lost it in the year 1896. The finding was the beginning of many years to follow of racial discrimination against the blacks (David 11).

Blacks’ revolution against Jim Crow laws

The Southerners started to face many problems after the end of slavery because the blacks began to be very active in civil rights movements. The whites opted to protect themselves by threatening the Blacks who tried to exercise their rights. The white Democrats in the South exercised their power over the blacks by segregating public recreational facilities. The whites did this by claiming that the practice was aimed at the protection of the Blacks. A great scholar in the 20th century stated that by allowing Blacks in white schools they would suffer from adverse feelings and opinions. After the Second World War, many Blacks fought against the segregation rules because they believed that they had obtained the right of being treated as Normal American citizens because of their great participation in the war.

The Civil rights quoted evidence of the Black’s participation in the war by stating incidences such as those of Isaac Woodward who was a Black who died in World War 2 while wearing the United States Army uniform. But while the Civil Rights movement was actively fighting the Jim Crow laws in federal courts, the white-dominated governments of the Southern states fought back by passing different versions of new restrictions. In the year 1954, the Supreme Court overturned Plessey’s ruling of 1896. The court did this because it found out that public segregation was unconstitutional. The ruling had many social ramifications however segregation did not fully come to an end until the year 1970 (Desmond 3).

Jim Crow End

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Supreme Court took a different ground and started to repel Jim Crow laws by claiming that they were unconstitutional. “For example in the Buchanan versus Warley case in 1917 the court ruled that Kentucky did not require segregation laws” (Christopher 195). In Irene versus Virginia case, the court ruled out that segregation in public transportation was unconstitutional. “In addition to Jim Crows laws, other groupings such as business people, political parties and other private parties had created their own laws that barred Blacks from buying goods in certain neighborhoods, shopping or working” (Desmond 3). The Supreme Court however banned such form of discrimination in the Shelley versus Kraemer case by ruling out that restrictive law to ban Blacks from buying goods from certain neighborhoods being unconstitutional (Christopher 195).

Most of Jim Crow Laws came to an end in the year 1965 when the voting rights act was sighed by President Johnson Lyndon. The act enabled Blacks to participate in all forms of elections. It also called for a federal investigation on counties that had a low voter turnout (Woodward 91).


The Jim Crow laws were established by the whites in the South who had an aim of segregating the blacks and other non-whites’ individuals. The laws prevented the Blacks and poor white minorities from participating in elections. In addition, the laws prevented the Blacks from having access to recreational facilities. The laws came to an end after the Second World War after the Civil rights movement became active in fighting them and the Supreme Court ruling against them.

Works cited

Christopher, L: The United States Supreme Court. Oxford press 2005. Page 195.

David, W: Race and Reunion: the civil war in American memory. Sun Microsystems Press. pp 9-11.

Desmond, K: separate and unequal: Black Americans and US federal government. Wiley Publications. Page 3.

Woodward, C: The strange career of Jim Crow. Sun Microsystems press 2001. pp 81-100.

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