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Jim Crow law

In the United States, the so-called Jim Crow laws (or Black Codes) were made to enforce racial segregation, and included laws that would prevent African-Americans from doing things that a "white" person could do. For instance, Jim Crow laws regulated separate use of water fountains and separate seating sections on public transport. Jim Crow laws varied between communities and states.

The first Jim Crow law was passed in 1723, when blacks in the state of Virginia were stripped of the right to vote and own property. A great number of such laws were passed from the 1870's to the 1900's, as redeemers[?] undid many of the reforms of the Reconstruction governments in the South, and ended a brief period of African-American political power that began after the American Civil War. The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States and the Civil Rights Act of 1875 had granted black Americans the same legal status as white Americans. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in the Civil Rights Cases 109 US 3 1883 and confirmed in Plessy v. Ferguson 163 US 537 1896 that Jim Crow laws were constitutional as long as they allowed for separate but equal facilities.

Some Jim Crow laws began to be repealed in the 20th century. The U.S. Supreme Court in Guinn v. United States 238 US 347 1915 ruled that an Oklahoma law that denied the right to vote to some citizens was unconstitutional. (None the less, the majority of African Americans were unable to vote in most states in the South East of the USA until the 1950s or 1960s.) In Buchanan v. Warley 245 US 60 1917, the Court held that a Kentucky law could not require residential segregation. The court outlawed the white primary in Smith v. Allwright[?] 321 US 649 1944, and in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka 347 US 483 1954 the Court ruled that separate facilities were inherently unequal in the area of public schools. These among other cases such as Shelley v. Kraemer 334 US 1 1948, McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Board of Regents[?] 339 US 637 1950, NAACP v. Alabama 357 US 449 1958, and Boynton v. Virginia[?] 364 US 454 1960, represent the main legal challenges to Jim Crow laws. However it was not until 1964, that Congress overturned Plessy with Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which declared Jim Crow laws permitting segregation in public facilities to be illegal.

As attitudes turned against segregation in the Federal courts after World War II, the segegationist white governments of many of the states of the South East countered with even more numerous and strict segregation laws on the local level until the start of the 1960s.

The modern civil rights movement is often considered to have been sparked by an act of civil disobedience against the Jim Crow laws when Rosa Parks, an African-American woman, refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. This led to a series of legislation and court decisions in which Jim Crow laws were repealed or annulled.

The term Jim Crow comes from the minstrel show song "Jump Jim Crow" written in 1828 by Thomas D. Rice, a white man, the originator of blackface performance. The song and blackface itself were an immediate hit and by 1837, Jim Crow was being used to refer to racial segregation.

In conjunction with the laws there was also Jim Crow etiquette: a set of unwritten rules governing how Blacks and Whites should interact. Breaking of this code could result in a lynching (1878-1898 saw 10,000 lynchings) or even a sadistic murder (Sam Hose[?] for example).

See also apartheid.



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