Good Challenging The Assertion That Blacks Were Not Mistreated During The Jim Crow Era Essay Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Law, People, Education, America, White, African American, Civil Rights, Crime

Pages: 9

Words: 2475

Published: 2020/12/17

Blacks were not mistreated during the Jim Crow era.

In the immediate aftermath of the American Civil War, the United States Congress passed three monumental pieces of legislation. The first one was the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery for eternity. The second one was the Fourteenth Amendment. This indicated that no state was allowed to pass any law, which would deny any individual who fell under its jurisdiction equal protection from the law. The other amendment was the Fifteenth Amendment, which stated that each citizen had a right to vote, regardless of his or her race. Comprehensively, these amendments were known as the Reconstruction Amendments. These amendments aimed to give African-American people equality in the eyes of the law. However, the Supreme Court, in the infamous Slaughterhouse Cases of 1873, later knocked these amendments back. Some laws designed to give Blacks equality, such as the 1875 Civil Rights Act were even declared unconstitutional. This set the stage for the Southern states to put in place the racist and discriminatory policies that came to known as the Jim Crow laws. The Jim Crow laws were statutes established in the period between 1874 and 1975 in order to segregate black people and white ones. These laws spanned across various sectors such as education, public transport, and accommodations and even encompassed sexual relations. Theoretically, the laws were supposed to bring about a system of “separate but equal” treatment but this was rarely the case. For instance in Louisiana, all railroads were required to have separate cars for Black and White people with Blacks banned from travelling in cars reserved for whites and vice versa for whites. In 2013, Phil Robertson, the bible-thumping patriarch of the Duck Dynasty, postulated that blacks did not suffer during the Jim Crow era and that they were in fact, happy. He further went on to claim that civil rights laws passed since then have transformed blacks into angry welfare recipients. This paper challenges these assertions and attempts to demonstrate the suffering Black people underwent.

The Origin of Separate but equal treatment

The doctrine of “separate but equal” treatment was the primary essence or foundation upon which the Jim Crow laws were built. This doctrine was entrenched in the 1896 Plessy v Ferguson case. In this case, a black man, Homer Plessy, refused to move from the whites-only car to the car reserved for blacks. Plessy was what was described as an octaroon. This means he was one eighth black. His great-grandparent had been an African American. Under the “one-drop” rule that most Southern states employed, Plessy was considered black. Thus, Plessy bought a first-class ticket and entered the whites-only coach. He then informed the conductor of his African-American status, and how he had no intention of moving to the ‘colored only” car. This led to his arrest and subsequent charging for violation of the Louisiana Separate Car Act of 1890. Plesssy had hoped the court would declare this law unconstitutional and set him free. However, the court convicted him, and this decision was upheld in an appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court. When the matter went before the U.S Supreme Court, the court in a 7-1 majority, voted to uphold the Separate Car Act, stating that whites and blacks were socially unequal and the court could not make them equal. By endorsing this segregation, the Supreme Court set the stage for the passing of even more draconian segregation laws.


Some of these laws involved the education sector. In the southern states, blacks and whites were not allowed to study in the same schools. Whites studied in the best and well-equipped schools while the black schools were usually nothing but ramshackle structures that lacked basic necessities such as water and heat as well as restroom facilities. Black children were also packed into overcrowded classrooms with no access to textbooks. The few textbooks that they had were those handed down from white schools where such books were no longer needed. The Negro teachers also had poor training in addition to poor remuneration. In some areas, the children were even lucky to get an education at all. In areas where a town did not have the means to build two schools, it would only build a single one, for white children. Hence, the colored children would end up lacking access to an education. The sharecropping system also contributed in a great way to the denial of education for black children. The children of African-American sharecroppers often found themselves pulled out of school by the white landowner because the landowner felt that they were needed in the farm. Alternatively, the landowner might simply be of the opinion that Negroes did not merit an education. Another aspect of denial of education was in the subjects the Negroes were allowed to study. In some cases, Black students were not permitted to study topics such as the Bill of Rights in order to prevent them gaining knowledge. Even where the Black students accessed the basic education, proceeding to a higher level was almost impossible. This is because African-Americans were banned from all the white state universities in the South.

Denial of Voting Rights.

Despite the 15th Amendment having given African-Americans the right to vote, Southern states used some clever methods to circumvent this and still restrict African-American participation in democratic processes. One of these methods was the imposition of poll tax. Under this method, legislation was enacted that dictated that a person could not participate in the elections if they had not paid this tax. This law, while not race specific, automatically locked out many African-Americas who were poor and could hardly afford the necessities of life such as food and shelter. To impose a tax on them that they knew these people were incapable of paying was a brilliantly crafted move. It ensured that their objective of limiting Black participation in democratic processes came to be and yet, it occurred within the confines of the constitution. Another way in which African-Americans were stopped from voting was through the passing of literacy laws as a prequalification to be registered. Again, this policy was on the face of it, non-discriminative. However, the knowledge that the majority of African-Americans of voting age were former slaves or the children of such former slaves would help to understand this better. As former slaves, these Black citizens had little to no education and hence being illiterate, did not meet the minimum threshold set by these states to be registered as voters. Hence, the white dominance would continue unchecked.

Violence and Attacks

African-American people were also the victims of violent racist attacks from white people based on the provisions of the Jim Crow laws. Beatings, torture, and even lynching were the order of the day for the Black people. Black people were attacked for the flimsiest reasons. For example, the sad case of a 14-year-old boy named Emmett Till who was lynched in 1955, supposedly because he had spoken disrespectfully to a white woman. Till was said to have ran afoul of the racial divide that existed in the South. This was an excuse often used by whites to justify the terror and torture that they used to rain on African-Americans. In the 1890’s, an estimated two lynchings of Black people were perpetrated in the South each week. The gruesome nature of these lynchings only exacerbated the problem. The white people treated these lynchings almost as a sport. Black people would be chased with dogs, beaten mercilessly and either hanged or burned alive. Though a myriad of reasons were usually given for these acts, the most common reason used to justify them was rape. This excuse was used despite the fact that white women sometimes chose to have Black partners of their own volition. However, since the Jim Crow laws explicitly criminalized relations between Black people and White ones, rape was immediately passed as the verdict. What followed then was a swift administration of mob justice. The actions of the Ku-Klux Klan can also not be ignored when talking about the violence meted out on Blacks by White people. The group was founded in 1915 and was based on the earlier 19th Century group, which had terrorized African-Americans and the Republicans who supported them. This revived group was responsible for domestic terrorism against African-Americans and white people who supported them. Notable incidents that the group claimed responsibility for included the 1961 Alabama attack on Freedom Riders. Another attack was the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Four young girls died in the attack. The murder, in Philadelphia, of three civil rights activists, was also attributed to this group. The Klan based its beliefs in the theory of white supremacy.

Racial hatred and mistrust

The Jim Crow laws led to young blacks growing up with a reality of the existence of racial hate. They grew up identifying and recognizing the existence of a strong sense of antipathy. This did not stop with the white hatred towards blacks. Young black people developed a culture of fear, hate, and mistrust towards the white people. There grew a sense of racial consciousness combined with vitriol towards white people. The hate was engendered into these young people and they grew up with this culture of loathing thus even in later lives they could not bring themselves to trust whites. Blacks also developed mistrust, antipathy towards the legal system, which they felt, discriminated against them, and they could not trust it.

Psychological trauma

Many of the young people who had witnessed these crimes of hate that had been perpetrated against their fellow African-Americans grew up suffering from severe psychological trauma. Young children would witness people they knew being burnt or beaten to death. These were images they would carry with them for the rest of their lives. The innocent children were made to grow up believing that they were inferior human beings because of the color of their skin. Color became the measure by which they were judged and by which they also judged everything else and everyone. They were made to feel as if they could never make it in life because they were Black. The Jim Crow laws also led to the imprisonment of many young black people for petty reasons. When they were imprisoned, the white landowners used them for cheap labor. This led to the Blacks feeling psychologically depressed since they worked under inhumane conditions no better than those of the slave trade days.

The Civil Rights Movement

After the Second World War had ended, the African-American men who had served in the war came back to the USA more determined than ever before to fight the racial discrimination that they were experiencing in their homeland. The first of these fights for justice came about in the form of the Brown vs. Board of Education case. Black activists alongside the liberal white supporters drove this case. Although Black people were initially unwilling to support the case, fearing that desegregation would lead to closure of their schools, they later came on board. The case, though a combination of five protests in one, got its name from Oliver Brown, a veteran of World War II, who had a daughter named Linda. Linda was banned from attending an elementary school close to her home in Kansas since it was for white students. Instead, the little girl was forced to wake up very early in the morning and brave a walk along a dangerous railroad track and a busy street, all in order to reach a bus which would take her to her all Black school. The activists decided to challenge this in court. However, they lost these cases in the lower courts since these courts were reluctant to overturn the rule established in Plessy. Eventually, the case reached the US Supreme Court. There, this court ruled that the court, under Chief Justice Warren, ruled that racial segregation created an inferiority complex among Black children and robbed them of the motivation to learn. Thus, it was held that the doctrine of “Separate but equal” could not apply since it acted in such a way as to deny the “equal protection” promised to every citizen under the terms of the 14th Amendment. Thus, the doctrine was declared unconstitutional. This decision proved a landmark one as it laid the groundwork for desegregation in other sectors also.
The success of the desegregation decision provided fresh impetus to the activists. Onward continued their quest for justice and this was epitomized by the phenomenal growth of the Civil Rights movement in the early 1960’s all the way to 1965. Prominent personalities at the heart of these efforts included people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. The massive pressure exerted by the movement saw Congress pass into law the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and whereas the Voting Rights Act. The Civil Rights Act criminalized any discrimination in public places, whereas the Voting Rights Act allowed the federal government to register Black people as voters, even in places where state legislation prohibited it. However, the rise of this civil rights movement was not without its consequences.
Civil rights movement leaders were angered at the slow pace of these reforms. Some of them, such as Malcolm X called for violent means to achieve these goals. These militant calls sparked waves of riots in big cities in the 1967-68 periods. In 1969, the civil rights movement cause lost its first high profile victim to an assassin’s bullet, Martin Luther King Jr. The second prominent minority rights activist assassinated was Robert Kennedy. This however, did not dampen the spirits nor kill the movement. An idea had already taken root and began to sprout all over the nation hence it could not be stopped. Issues about implementation of policies and equality of access to opportunities continued to dominate headlines. Years on, the fight remains alive. Total equality has yet to be achieved. However, rapid strides have been made with the election of an African-American president one of these. It is thus fallacious to argue, as Robertson intimated, that the Civil rights movement has created “angry welfare recipients.” This is an unfortunate and sad assertion. African–American people in the USA have had to fight for every opportunity they have. The unfortunate truth is that discrimination continues to permeate almost all sectors of the economy. There is still a huge income disparity between Black people and Whites. For Robertson to then brand African –Americans as “welfare recipients” is derogatory and insulting. A majority of African-Americans are taking advantage of this leveling of the playing field to take up the opportunities. They do not keep relying on handouts. However, the anger still remains, largely thanks to such comments as those of Robertson. Efforts to promote this racial tolerance should therefore continue to be encouraged.

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WePapers. (2020, December, 17) Good Challenging The Assertion That Blacks Were Not Mistreated During The Jim Crow Era Essay Example. Retrieved September 21, 2023, from
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Good Challenging The Assertion That Blacks Were Not Mistreated During The Jim Crow Era Essay Example. Free Essay Examples - Published Dec 17, 2020. Accessed September 21, 2023.

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