After the Civil War there was a period in the South called the Reconstruction. During this time the federal government controlled the southern states. However, after the Reconstruction, the state governments took back over. Most Jim Crow laws were put in place in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Many of them were enforced until the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Why were they called “Jim Crow”?
The name “Jim Crow” comes from an African-American character in a song from 1832. After the song came out, the term “Jim Crow” was often used to refer to African-Americans and soon the segregation laws became known as “Jim Crow” laws.
Examples of Jim Crow Laws
Jim Crow laws were designed to keep black and white people apart. They touched on many aspects of society. Here are a few examples of laws in different states:
- Alabama – All passenger stations shall have separate waiting rooms and separate ticket windows for the white and colored races.
- Florida – The schools for white children and the schools for black children shall be conducted separately.
- Georgia – The officer in charge shall not bury any colored persons upon the ground set apart for the burial of white persons.
- Mississippi – Prison wardens shall see that the white convicts shall have separate apartments for both eating and sleeping from the negro convicts.
There were also laws that tried to prevent black people from voting. These included poll taxes (a fee people had to pay to vote) and reading tests that people had to pass before they could vote.
In order to make sure that all white people could vote, many states enacted “grandfather” clauses into their voting laws. These laws stated that if your ancestors could vote before the Civil War, then you did not have to pass the reading test. This allowed for white people who could not read to vote. This is where the term “grandfather clause” comes from.
After the Civil War, many southern states created laws called Black Codes. These laws were even harsher than the Jim Crow laws. They tried to maintain something like slavery in the south even after the war. These laws made it difficult for black people to leave their current jobs and allowed them be arrested for just about any reason. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Fourteenth Amendment tried to put an end to the Black Codes.
African-Americans began to organize, protest, and fight segregation and the Jim Crow laws in the 1900s. In 1954, the Supreme Court said that segregation of the schools was illegal in the famous Brown v. Board of Education case. Later, protests such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Birmingham Campaign, and the March on Washington brought the issue of Jim Crow to national attention.
The End of Jim Crow Laws
Jim Crow laws were made illegal with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Interesting Facts about Jim Crow Laws
- The U.S. army was segregated until 1948 when President Harry Truman ordered the armed services desegregated.
- As many as 6 million African-Americans relocated to the North and West to get away from the Jim Crow laws of the south. This is sometimes called the Great Migration.
- Not all Jim Crow laws were in the south or were specific to black people. There were other racial laws in other states such as a law in California that made it illegal for people of Chinese ancestry to vote. Another California law made it illegal to sell alcohol to Indians.
- The phrase “separate but equal” was often used to justify segregation.