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Jim Crow Laws. Based upon the racial understanding of the time, the protection of white ... Therefore, Jim Crow laws were constructed to insure white power and ...

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The politics of segregation jim crow and disenfranchisement l.jpg

The Politics of Segregation: Jim Crow and Disenfranchisement


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The Election of 1876

  • The Election of 1876 virtually ended in a tie.

  • Democrat Samuel Tilden, the governor of New York, narrowly won the popular vote but, with several states still in dispute, remained one vote shy of winning the electoral college vote.

  • Republican Rutherford B. Hayes needed twenty votes, a sweep of the disputed states, to win the election.

  • As the term of President Grant was set to expire, a compromise was reached that handed Hayes the White House. In exchange, Hayes ended Reconstruction and returned the former Confederate states to home rule.

  • As a practical matter, this ended federal supervision of race relations and ushered in the political and social system of white supremacy known as Jim Crow.


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The Election of 1876


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  • Robert Smalls was an African American man, born a slave, who, after the Civil War, was elected to the House of Representatives five times from South Carolina.

  • This excerpt decries the sorts of fraud practiced against Republicans in the state. Southern whites voted overwhelmingly Democratic while Southern African Americans voted heavily Republican.

  • When Smalls speaks of measures designed to discourage Republican voters, this would disproportionately impact black voters.

  • In the coming years, many of these same techniques were refined beyond party affiliation and concentrated exclusively on race.

  • “The brutality and fraud of the Democracy in the campaign and election of 1876 and the determination of its result were only equaled, but not excelled, by the Kuklux outrages which aroused the just indignation of the entire North. Republicanism was in that year overthrown by murderous gangs called “rifle clubs,” who, acting in concert, terrorized nearly the entire State, overawing election officers and defying the courts….”


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The Racist Climate of 19th Century America

  • Americans in the late 19th and early 20th Century were accustomed to thinking of life in racial terms.

  • Europeans and persons of European descent saw their society as being far more advanced and sophisticated than other world societies.

  • Social philosophers, such as Herbert Spencer, combined this observation along with a misapplication of the new study of evolution to compose an understanding of the world built on racial characteristics.

  • Since these studies were conceived to demonstrate the supremacy of white Anglo Saxon Europeans, that is exactly what they found. All other races were deemed inferior and were treated as such.


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Below are a selection of products, advertisements, and packaging from the 19th Century from popular culture demonstrating prevalent racial attitudes.


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Lynching

  • Lynching was a common act of violence and terrorism used in 19th and 20th Century America.

  • The victim, typically a black man accused of a sexual or violent crime, was usually taken from the jail, courthouse, or his home by a mob, beaten, tortured, and murdered.

  • A number of people were burned alive. Between 1882 and 1968, 4,743 people were lynched in America.

  • Every state experienced at least one lynching, though they were most common in the South.


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  • On 28 September 1919, Willie Brown, accused of sexually assaulting a white woman, was lynched outside of the Douglas County Courthouse in Omaha.

  • Brown was hanged and shot repeatedly. When the mayor attempted to intervene, he was hanged from a tree, though a policeman was able to cut him down before he was seriously injured.

  • Brown’s body was dragged behind an automobile through downtown Omaha and, eventually, burned at the intersection of 17th and Dodge Streets.

  • The burning of Willie Brown’s body is the photograph presented.


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Plessey v. Ferguson

  • Plessey v. Ferguson was an 1896 Supreme Court decision allowing separate facilities on the basis of race.

  • Court Opinion:

    “In determining the question of reasonableness, it is at liberty to act with reference to the established usages, customs, and traditions of the people, and with a view to the promotion of their comfort, and the preservation of the public peace and good order. Gauged by this standard, we cannot say that a law which authorizes or even requires the separation of the two races in public conveyances is unreasonable, or more obnoxious to the fourteenth amendment than the acts of congress requiring separate schools for colored children in the District of Columbia, the constitutionality of which does not seem to have been questioned, or the corresponding acts of state legislatures.”

  • Justice Harlan dissent:

    “I am of opinion that the state of Louisiana is inconsistent with the personal liberty of citizens, white and black, in that state, and hostile to both the spirit and letter of the constitution of the United States. If laws of like character should be enacted in the several states of the Union, the effect would be in the highest degree mischievous. Slavery, as an institution tolerated by law, would, it is true, have disappeared from our country; but there would remain a power in the states, by sinister legislation, to interfere with the full enjoyment of the blessings of freedom, to regulate civil rights, common to all citizens, upon the basis of race, and to place in a condition of legal inferiority a large body of American citizens, now constituting a part of the political community,”


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"Pitchfork" Ben Tillman

  • “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman was the governor and, eventually, a Senator from South Carolina.

  • He received the nickname after he threatened to impale President Grover Cleveland on the farm implement in a dispute over monetary policy.

  • Tillman’s time as governor was marked by his use of racial tensions for his own political purposes.

  • While campaigning, he boasted that if a black man were accused of raping a white woman he, as governor, would be the first in the lynch mob.

  • In 1895, Tillman presided over the South Carolina Constitutional Convention that disenfranchised African Americans in the state.


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  • "Tillman on Lynch Laws" is a section of an exchange between Tillman and Wisconsin Senator Spooner in which Tillman justifies racial violence and explains the motivation behind the Jim Crow laws.

  • “I realize that there are millions of good negroes, if they are let alone and not taught heresies and criminal thoughts and feelings and actions. I should like to see this good, easy, good-for-nothing people given a chance to live. Give them justice; give them equal rights before the law; enable them to get property and keep it, and be protected in its enjoyment; give them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, provided their happiness does not destroy mine….”

  • A statue of Tillman stands before the South Carolina capitol.


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Jim Crow Laws

  • Based upon the racial understanding of the time, the protection of white political power and bloodlines became paramount.

  • White people of the time could not conceive subordination to what they considered a lesser race nor the dilution or tainting of their white blood.

  • Therefore, Jim Crow laws were constructed to insure white power and govern relationships between the races.


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  • These laws were built on the constitutional precedent of Plessey v. Ferguson.

  • However, the "separate but equal" standard from Plessey was no more than a legal fiction as these laws were heavily tilted to the advantage of white people.


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Jim Crow Laws: Nebraska

  • Close Although Nebraska outlawed segregation of all public facilities beginning in 1885, the state passed four miscegenation laws between 1865 and 1943.

  • 1865: Miscegenation [Statute]Declared marriage between whites and a Negro or mulatto as illegal. Penalty: Misdemeanor, with a fine up to $100, or imprisonment in the county jail up to six months, or both.

  • 1885: Barred public accommodations segregation [Statute]All persons entitled to equal access to inns, public transportation, barber shops, theaters, and other places of amusement. Penalty: Misdemeanor, fined between $10 and $25, and court costs paid.

  • 1893: Barred public accommodations segregation [Statute]Amended 1895 law to include restaurants. Increased penalty from $25 to $100, and payment of court costs.

  • 1911: Miscegenation [Statute]Marriages between a white and colored person declared illegal. Also noted that marriages between whites and those persons with one-quarter or more Negro blood were void.

  • 1929: Civil rights protection [Statute]Outlawed racial discrimination. Penalty:Criminal prosecution

  • 1929: Miscegenation [Statute]Forbid marriages between persons of the Caucasian race and those persons with one eighth or more Asian blood.

  • 1943: Miscegenation [Statute]Prohibited marriage of whites with anyone with one-eighth or more Negro, Japanese or Chinese blood.

  • 1957: Barred National Guard segregation [Statute]Prohibited discrimination within National Guard.


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Tom Watson

  • Tom Watson was a populist politician from Georgia in the later part of the 19th Century.

  • Though he would later be known for his stridently racist and anti-Semitic writings, he was instrumental in the 1913 lynching of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory owner accused of murder, he began his career urging conciliation between the races.

  • In “The Negro Problem in the South,” Watson argued that poor people in the South share common interests regardless of race and that, if they could be persuaded to set aside their racial animosities, they could become a potent political force.

  • A statue of Watson stands in front of the Georgia capitol.


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Ida B. Wells

  • Ida Wells was a journalist living in Memphis, Tennessee who wrote a series of editorials following the lynching of three of her friends.

  • Following the publication, the newspaper office was ransacked.

  • Wells moved to New York and became an anti-lynching advocate.

  • In 1895, published the first statistical analysis of lynching.

  • “For nearly twenty years lynching crimes….have been committed and permitted by this Christian nation. Nowhere in the civilized world save the United States of America do men, possessing all civil and political power, go out in bands of 50 and 5,000 to hunt down, shoot, hang or burn to death a single individual, unarmed and absolutely powerless.”


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Jack Johnson

  • Jack Johnson was the first black man to become heavy weight champion of the world.

  • In 1908, after overcoming a conspiracy among title holders to deny the belt to a black fighter, Johnson defeated Tommy Burns to win the championship.

  • Johnson took advantage of all that his title offered him; spending vast amounts of money, dressing extravagantly, buying expensive automobiles, and, unpardonably in his time, he married, at various times, four white women


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  • This was too much for turn of the century America.

  • Newsreels of Johnson’s fights were censored for fear of sparking race riots, and Johnson was convicted of a violation of the Mann Act, taking an unmarried woman across state lines for immoral purposes, due to his affinity for prostitutes.

  • It was said that Johnson integrated more brothels than any man alive.

  • Before he could be sentenced however, Johnson fled the country for France.

  • Johnson returned to America bankrupt after losing the title in Cuba.

  • He served one year in prison on the Mann Act charge. After his release from prison, Johnson wrote his memoirs, "Mes Combats," in French. Johnson died in a car accident in 1946.


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Early Civil Rights Movement: Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois

  • Booker T. Washington and W.E.B DuBois were the two most significant early leaders in the modern Civil Rights movement.

  • This being said, they were very different men with very different approaches.

  • Washington, the founder of the Tuskegee Institute, believed that Jim Crow was the reality and that, for the time being, African Americans should focus on self improvement through education and economic strength separate from whites.

  • In one of his most famous speeches, Washington used the metaphor of a hand, saying that whites and blacks could be as separate as the fingers but, when needed, as united as a fist.


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  • DuBois, the first African American to receive a PhD from Harvard, believed that Jim Crow should be opposed with every means available.

  • To this end, he was one of the founders of the NAACP, which offered legal challenges to the Jim Crow system.

  • Although seeking the same ends, Washington and DuBois shared a rivalry through the early part of the twentieth century.


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