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Jim Crow Laws in the Reconstruction Era Essay


Introduction

The United States went through a bloody civil war that permanently changed American politics and social and economic trends that existed before the war. In 1865, the civil war ended and slavery was abolished with the thirteenth amendment1. The civil war had come with a heavy price to the rebellious southern states whose economy was badly damaged and needed crucial assistance from the federal government. This ushered in the reconstruction period when southern states sought to join the union again2.

Jim Crow Laws in the Reconstruction Era

Scholars differ on the era during which Jim Crow laws were enacted and implemented. However, there is consensus among many of them that the genesis of Jim Crow laws was during the reconstruction period and they formally ended in the 1965 with the Supreme Court declarations that segregation was unconstitutional3.

To understand Jim Crow laws, it is important to note that most Southern States were agricultural states and heavily dependent on intensive labor that was supplied through slavery. Additionally, the majority of the white population did not like the fact that African-Americans had gained freedom and could then start integrating into the wider American society4. It is possible therefore that the origin of Jim Crow laws emanated from the protection of freed slaves by federal authorities.

Precisely, political leaders, mainly supported by the Democratic Party and implemented with the support of violent groups such as the Ku Klux Klan that made voter registration difficult and restrictive to African-Americans and poor sections of the white population passed Jim Crow laws5. A combination of poll taxes, literacy tests and record-keeping requirements ensured African-Americans and poor whites and any other people deemed to be supporting black empowerment did not vote.

Southern states quickly moved to curb the newfound freedom of black people by enacting both state and local laws that ensured de jure racial segregation6. The laws, also referred to as black codes appeared neutral on the surface but in reality, they were repressive towards black people and were meant to take them back to their pre-war status as slaves. Jim Crow laws ensured that African-Americans led an inferior life to those of whites. There was blatant discrimination in the education system, political representation, public services and employment.

The People Affected

There is consensus that Jim Crow laws mainly affected African-Americas in the southern states. However, in the pursuit of segregation of the American population by southerners, a big chunk of the white population was also affected. As highlighted earlier, applying the same repressive laws on poor whites became the norm in the south.

Resolution

Despite the strong application of the Jim Crow laws during the reconstruction era especially by southern democrats, changing social trends and the growing need for equality in the US helped turn the tide against them. Whether or not the Jim Crow problem was solved is debatable. However, over time, there has been piecemeal resolution to the Jim Crow problem through the courts and public agitation. The United Supreme Court has in the last two centuries struck down a number of Jim Crow laws on the grounds of being unconstitutional. As a result, segregation in residential areas and in public transport was outlawed in 1917 and 1945 respectively7.

Besides the courts, there was public agitation for equality, which effectively aimed at challenging the setting brought by Jim Crow laws. One of the most enduring acts of rebellion as a result of Jim Crow laws was the Rosa Parks incident that led to widespread boycotts of the bus transport system in various parts of the U.S.8. The epitome of public action against Jim Crow however was the movement that was led by Reverend Martin Luther Kind Jr., which eventually culminated, to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that the US and especially the southern states have made progress as far as abolition of Jim Crow laws is concerned. All Americans are now treated equally. While this is the case, some scholars argue that segregation is still rife in the U.S. but not confined to the southern States only.

Some scholars believe there is a new form of segregation that mainly targets minority communities in the US especially through the corrections system9. In their opinion, overt segregation was re-designed to become mass incarceration of the minorities, which according to them is as effective as the Jim Crow segregation itself. Concisely, the 21st century United States may not be perfect as far as race relations are concerned. However, it is important to acknowledge that there has been tremendous progress made on that front and race relations are far much better than they were during the Jim Crow era, both in the North and South.

Bibliography

Alexander, Michelle. The new Jim Crow: mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. New York: Routledge, 2010.

Johnson, Kimberley. Reforming Jim Crow: Southern Politics and State in the Age Before Jim Crow. London: Sage Publications, 2010.

Tischauser, Leslie. Jim Crow Laws. New York: Springer, 2012.

Footnotes

  1. Leslie Tischauser, Jim Crow Laws (New York: Springer, 2012), 184.
  2. Leslie Tischauser, Jim Crow Laws (New York: Springer, 2012), 184.
  3. Kimberley Johnson, Reforming Jim Crow: Southern Politics and State in the Age Before Jim Crow (London: Sage Publications, 2010), 376.
  4. Michelle Alexander, The new Jim Crow: mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness (New York: Routledge, 2010), 288.
  5. Michelle Alexander, The new Jim Crow: mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness (New York: Routledge, 2010), 288.
  6. Kimberley Johnson, Reforming Jim Crow: Southern Politics and State in the Age Before Jim Crow (London: Sage Publications, 2010), 376.
  7. Leslie Tischauser, Jim Crow Laws (New York: Springer, 2012), 186.
  8. Leslie Tischauser, Jim Crow Laws (New York: Springer, 2012), 186.a
  9. Michelle Alexander, The new Jim Crow: mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness (New York: Routledge, 2010), 290.
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Gibson, A. (2020, May 21). Jim Crow Laws in the Reconstruction Era [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/jim-crow-laws-in-the-reconstruction-era/

Work Cited

Gibson, Avery. "Jim Crow Laws in the Reconstruction Era." IvyPanda, 21 May 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/jim-crow-laws-in-the-reconstruction-era/.

1. Avery Gibson. "Jim Crow Laws in the Reconstruction Era." IvyPanda (blog), May 21, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/jim-crow-laws-in-the-reconstruction-era/.


Bibliography


Gibson, Avery. "Jim Crow Laws in the Reconstruction Era." IvyPanda (blog), May 21, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/jim-crow-laws-in-the-reconstruction-era/.

References

Gibson, Avery. 2020. "Jim Crow Laws in the Reconstruction Era." IvyPanda (blog), May 21, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/jim-crow-laws-in-the-reconstruction-era/.

References

Gibson, A. (2020) 'Jim Crow Laws in the Reconstruction Era'. IvyPanda, 21 May.

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