JIM CROW SYSTEM
The Jim Crow Laws made chain gangs
an essential part of the system of control and suppression. African-Americans were
arrested for supposed misdemeanors, convicted, and then leased out effectively put into
servitude to do business that profited from their enforced free labor.
In 1883, the U.S. Supreme Court began to
strike down the foundations of the post-Civil War Reconstruction, declaring the Civil Rights Act of 1875,
unconstitutional. The Court also ruled that the Fourteenth
Amendment prohibited state governments from discriminating against people because of
race but did not restrict private organizations or individuals from doing so. Thus
railroads, hotels, theatres, and the like could legally practice segregation.
Eventually, the Court also validated state legislation that discriminated against
In 1896, it legitimized the principle of
"separate but equal" in its ruling Plessy v. Ferguson. The
Court held that separate accommodations did not deprive blacks of equal rights if the
accommodations were equal. In 1899, the Court went even further declaring in Cumming
v. County Board of Education: Laws establishing separate schools for Whites were valid
even if they provided no comparable school for Blacks. The high court rulings led to
a profusion of Jim Crow laws.
By 1914, every Southern State had passed
laws that created two separate societies one Black, the other white. Blacks and
Whites could not ride together in the same railroad cars, sit in the same waiting rooms,
use the same washrooms, eat in the same restaurants, or sit in the same theaters.
Blacks were denied access to parks, beaches, and picnic areas; they were barred from many
hospitals. What had been maintained by custom in the rural South was to be
maintained by law in the urban South.
Revised: July 18, 2013.