Jim Crow Laws

Jim Crow laws, in U.S. history, statutes enacted by Southern states and municipalities, beginning in the 1880s, that legalized segregation between blacks and whites. The name is believed to be derived from a character in a popular minstrel song. The Supreme Court ruling in 1896 in Plessy v. Ferguson that separate facilities for whites and blacks were constitutional encouraged the passage of discriminatory laws that wiped out the gains made by blacks during Reconstruction. Railways and streetcars, public waiting rooms, restaurants, boardinghouses, theaters, and public parks were segregated; separate schools, hospitals, and other public institutions, generally of inferior quality, were designated for blacks. By World War I, even places of employment were segregated, and it was not until after World War II that an assault on Jim Crow in the South began to make headway. In 1950 the Supreme Court ruled that the Univ. of Texas must admit a black, Herman Sweatt, to the law school, on the grounds that the state did not provide equal education for him. This was followed (1954) by the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kans., declaring separate facilities by race to be unconstitutional. Blacks in the South used legal suits, mass sit-ins, and boycotts to hasten desegregation. A march on Washington by over 200,000 in 1963 dramatized the movement to end Jim Crow. Southern whites often responded with violence, and federal troops were needed to preserve order and protect blacks, notably at Little Rock, Ark. (1957), Oxford, Miss. (1962), and Selma, Ala. (1965). The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 finally ended the legal sanctions to Jim Crow. See affirmative action; civil rights; integration.

See C. V. Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow (1966); L. F. Litwack, How Free Is Free? The Long Death of Jim Crow (2009).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Journey from Jim Crow: The Desegregation of Southern Transit
Catherine A. Barnes.
Columbia University Press, 1983
Managing White Supremacy: Race, Politics, and Citizenship in Jim Crow Virginia
J. Douglas Smith.
University of North Carolina Press, 2002
Growing Up Jim Crow: How Black and White Southern Children Learned Race
Jennifer Ritterhouse.
University of North Carolina Press, 2006
After Redemption: Jim Crow and the Transformation of African American Religion in the Delta, 1875-1915
John M. Giggie.
Oxford University Press, 2008
Fighting Jim Crow
Lasner, Lynn Fabian.
Humanities, Vol. 23, No. 5, September/October 2002
Uplifting the Race: Black Leadership, Politics, and Culture in the Twentieth Century
Kevin K. Gaines.
University of North Carolina Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Living Jim Crow: The Atlanta Riot and Unmasking 'Social Equality'"
Jim Crow's Coming Out: Race Relations and American Foreign Policy in the Truman Years
Borstelmann, Thomas.
Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 3, September 1999
Abiding Courage: African American Migrant Women and the East Bay Community
Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo.
University of North Carolina Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. One "It Was Just Like Living in Two Worlds: Growing Up in the Jim Crow South, 1910-1940"
Making Civil Rights Law: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court, 1936-1961
Mark V. Tushnet.
Oxford University Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 21 "'I'd Kind of Outlived My Usefulness': The Changing Context of Civil Rights Litigation"
Communist Front? The Civil Rights Congress, 1946-1956
Gerald Horne.
Associated University Presses, 1988
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "I Will Not Live in Peace with Jim Crow: CRC in the South"
The Abolitionists: A Collection of Their Writings
Louis Ruchames.
G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1963
Librarian’s tip: "A Negro Abolitionist Protests against Jim Crow Railroads in Massachusetts" begins on p. 179
The Negro in American Civilization
Nathaniel Weyl.
Public Affairs Press, 1960
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "From Reconstruction to Jim Crow"
Brown's Reflection
Burt, Robert A.
The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 103, No. 6, April 1994
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