Resistance to Jim Crow Laws

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Prompt 1: Discuss the evolution of racial and ethnic definitions in America following the Civil War.  Using specific examples, discuss the evolution from slave era paternalism to Jim Crow era segregation, the “One Drop Rule”, and “Separate but Equal” legislation.  How did various groups and individuals justify the stiffening of racial lines in America?  What impact did these groups have on America’s racial identity?  Please focus your answer on the period 1865-1924.

The Civil War marked the end of slavery in the United States with the South and the North finally reaching a common agreement. However, this period played a significant role in transforming and allowing for the evolution of the racial and ethnic definitions in the country. After the Civil War, the decision to declare the entire country as a free state for every US citizen did not auger well with races and ethnic groups. Instead, many individuals developed stereotypes, segregate measures and notions, and also stiffening of racial and ethnic lines. As a result, this sustained the difference between races where individuals were separated by lines and groups by notions such as Jim Crow segregation, “One Drop Rule”, and “Separate but Equal” legislation (Klarman). Eventually, these groups contributed to the intensity of America’s racial identity individuals being treated differently in sectors of health, employment, education, and transport based on their racial backgrounds (Davis). The efforts by the North to end slavery led by President Abraham Lincoln in the 1860s was successful. However, the strings of ethnic and racial backgrounds transformed into the lives of the Americans, thus, transforming the suffering associated with slavery into mistreatment on the basis of individual races.

Firstly, the introduction of the Jim Crow segregation brought about massive segregation and divisions among the US citizens as they accessed services in various sectors. This rule demanded for the provision of segregated public schools, public transport, public places, and also segregation in places such as restrooms, restaurants, and guest places. These laws were famous among the Southern United states such as Virginia, South and North Carolina, and Georgia. These laws emerged during the Reconstruction period in 1877 and lasted up to the Civil Rights Movement period in the 1950s (Klarman 37). The laws provided for a designated life based on the ethnic or racial background of an individual, especially while in public. Essentially, these laws prevented the minority races such as the African Americans from competing on the resources, services, and rights preserved for the majority races such as the Whites. Secondly, the “One Drop Rule” was also a prominent notion across the US. According to the rule, any person who had a black skin or even with an ancestry of the Sub-Saharan region occupied a lower region in the ethnic and racial hierarchy of the US (Davis). The law necessitated that even ‘one drop’ of blood was enough to deem one as a black and to put them in a lower social rank. In this case, children born from a mixed union had an automatic assignment of their race as African Americans. Therefore, they received similar treatment as the blacks in the public places and social amenities. Lastly, the “Separate but Equal” legislation was introduced to necessitated that racial segregation was constitutional as long as the social amenities and facilities that provided services for the black and white people are equal (Klarman). This law emerged from the 1890’s Louisiana Law which provided equal facilities but separately for different races (Fireside). In the court case, Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court, in 1896, the law was approved where racial segregation sponsored by the state began (Klarman 72). The three rules and laws divided Americans into groups that were based on their races and ethnic backgrounds. As a result, this intensified the enmity between people in the country; especially the services provided were not fair for all. At the same time, the laws denied the minority races numerous rights and services. Therefore, this paved way for civil rights tension in the early 1920s.

Prompt 2: Resistance to Jim Crow laws took many forms in the early and mid-twentieth century.  Using specific examples discuss the various attempts to break the racial barrier of segregation.  Who were the important leaders and symbols?  What were their methods for attacking racial ideology in America?  What factors contributed to the successes of the Civil Rights movement in legislation.  What effect has this had on America’s racial line?  Where do we stand now?  Hint * Have definitions of accepted and expected racism changed over time?

Jim Crow segregation laws remains arguably the most oppressive and brutal laws that caused massive division among the races in the United States. The laws targeted at segregating the black people from accessing the resources, services, and rights reserved for the whites in various places such as public schools, public, transport, employment sector, restrooms and restaurants, and other public places which had a mix of races (Jackson 46). However, these laws ignited a lengthy period of resistance using the Civil Rights Movements that emerged in the 1920s. Many blacks were against the cruelty and oppression associated with the laws and they depicted their discontentment through raging resistance through various leaders. At the same time, the blacks used methods and symbols that demonstrated their unity of purpose and message in calling for equality and end to segregation. Some of the attempts that the blacks used to resist the barrier of segregation included the refusal to offer seats in buses during public transport, boycotting the use of the designated means of public transport for the segregated races in cases such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, holding protests and walks, forming civil rights movements, urging black people to vote, and holding peaceful demonstrations (Davis). The attempts to break the segregation barrier were led by various leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Lamar Smith, Rosa Parks, and Roy Wilkins among others.

During the resistances, the civil rights activists and their followers used various means and symbols to communicate their message and urge for the call to end racial segregation. First, the activists used their leaders as a symbol of their unity and devotion in fighting against racial discrimination (Klarman 99). Second, the activists used placards with typed messages meant to oppose social, political, and economic prejudice and violence directed to them by the whites. Last, the activists also used peaceful demonstration as a symbol of their peaceful request to have a change in the country through the elimination of segregation (Jackson 52). As a result, the efforts to end segregation succeeded through the elimination of oppressive rules and enactment of laws that protected the minority races by ensuring equality in the employment sector, schools, voting, access to health services, and in the use of public transport (Klarman). Most importantly, these efforts were successful due to the countless efforts and determination among the top civil activists and leaders such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr (Fireside). At the same time, the methods used by the activists such as peaceful demonstration and written messages ignited the entire nation as well as the world to focus on the impacts of segregation on people and particular races. As a result, the end of severe segregation in the country paved way for the equality based on the provision and access to rights and equality among all individuals despite their racial backgrounds. Various rights such as the right to vote, own property, use public transport, access employment opportunities, and access health services were made to be fair to all the Americans. In the present, the definitions of accepted and expected racism have critically changed with the 20th century contributing to the significant decline in racial discrimination. Today, individuals rarely face racial segregation in sectors such as education, finance, health, and employment (Klarman 147). However, the country has still not resolved the racism issue especially on the political sector. Many people have yet lost their attachment to the political affiliations that aim at protecting their rights and favoring them based on their races. Therefore, the country needs to instill more efforts to ensure full equality and access to rights by all the citizens from all ethnic and racial backgrounds.

Works Cited

Davis, F. James. Who is black?: One nation's definition. Penn State Press, 2010.

Fireside, Harvey. Separate and unequal: Homer Plessy and the Supreme Court decision that legalized racism. Carroll & Graf, 2004.

Jackson, Thomas F. From civil rights to human rights: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the struggle for economic justice. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.

Klarman, Michael J. "Brown, racial change, and the civil rights movement." Virginia Law Review (1994): 7-150.

Klarman, Michael J. From Jim Crow to civil rights: The Supreme Court and the struggle for racial equality. Oxford University Press, 2006.

November 13, 2023
Subject area:

Civil Rights Movement

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