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Jim Crow Laws in America Today

Introduction

The US Civil War put an end to the institutions of slavery, which were preserved in the constitution of the young nation. The period of Reconstruction (1863-1877) that followed the Civil War opened up the possibility of establishing a new social system without the superiority of the white population over the black one (Library of Congress, n.d.). The ruling class of the North of the USA met fierce resistance of the white elites of the South, and betrayed the hopes of many millions of people for social equality. Racism was openly spelled out in the law, and it blessed two separate and unequal lifestyles, one for whites and one for blacks. The entire service sector in the South (and not only it) was racially divided: from restaurants to drinking fountains and taxis (Constitutional Rights Foundation, n.d.). Slavery was gone, but the racist system of the Jim Crow laws, backed up by violence, terror, and killings, took its place (Bruce & Murray, 1901). Although the Jim Crow laws were abolished over fifty years ago, their social, political, and cultural long-term impact makes African Americans still face their echoes in modern life.

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An Overview and Effects of the Jim Code

The Underlying Factors that Led to the Jim Code Laws

As the Civil war ended, the Thirteenth Amendment emancipated the U.S. slaves, covering all states of their residence (Barnett, 2017). The Southern white population was outraged by the need to share their living space with blacks on equal terms fully (Reconstruction: The Second Civil War, n.d.). Their discontent resulted in the set of laws known as the Black Code, later proceeded with the Jim Crow laws. Both codes of these laws targeted to keep the black population below the white one through segregation (Pilgrim, 2012). The Black Code was a sort of continuation of slavery for African Americans instead of promised long-awaited freedom and equality (Hansan, 2011). The laws defined potential jobs for former slaves and their wages (Constitutional Rights Foundation, n.d.). Constitutional Rights Foundation (n.d.) states that these codes aimed to pressure the black population to sign the labor contracts, allowing the police to arrest the vagrants and imprison them at hard labor.

The Short Overview of the Jim Crow Laws History

The Black Codes have become the foundation for the system of laws known as Jim Crow laws (Constitutional Rights Foundation, n.d.). This code of laws empowered the white community and limited the blacks influence (Pilgrim, 2012). The Jim Crow laws became a symbolic term for racial segregation in the South of the U.S. Black men were disenfranchised by the whites with the help of poll taxes, literacy tests, poor funded schools, unpunished violence, and so on (Reconstruction: The Second Civil War, n.d.). African Americans claims to equality were interpreted as an affront by the Southern whites. The Fourteenth Amendment and its loopholes deserve special attention and historic consideration. It was planned to provide the equality to all the citizens, but instead it legalized the segregation on equal rights.

The Immediate and Long-Term Consequences of Jim Crow for American Society

The era of the Jim Crow laws lasted from the 1870s till the 1960s. Their immediate impact included the ban for African Americans to occupy the places in the front of public transport, visit “whites only” institutions, including schools, theaters, and so on (Reconstruction: The Second Civil War, n.d.). During Reconstruction, President Johnson struggled with Congress for the definition of U.S. citizenship, which resulted in the first impeachment in American history, although it was the lack of only one vote to convict Johnson (Constitutional Rights Foundation, n.d.). Moreover, the negative effects included the spread of terrorism like the Ku Klux Klan (Bruce & Murray, 1901).

Nevertheless, there were enduring achievements either like the ratification of the Thirteenth to Fifteenth Amendments, the establishment of political, religious, and educational institutions both by and for the former slaves (Brown v. Board n.d.). Their right to be officeholders and voters in American politics is another achievement to be mentioned. Finally, Martin Luther King created a political reality in which significant laws could be enacted – the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Vote Rights Act (Library of Congress, n.d.).

At the same time, Kentucky ratified the Thirteenth Amendment only in 1976, and the last of the states, Mississippi, in 1995, and, for an unspecified reason, the statement of ratification was not sent to the Federal Register, as expected. This fact was accidentally noticed after seventeen years, so, formally, the issue was finally closed only on February 7, 2013 (Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, n.d.). The centuries-old tragedy of slavery ended 150 years ago, but it took another hundred years to overcome its consequences.

The Historical Evidence of the Impact of the Jim Crow laws on American Society

The Civil Rights Act of 1875 forbade “any person” to place citizens of any race or color in an unequal position in public places, such as hotels, theaters and places of public entertainment, as well as public transport. In 1883, the Supreme Court declared this law unconstitutional on the grounds that the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits discrimination by states rather than individuals (Library of Congress, n.d.). Accordingly, Congress did not have the right to prohibit individual acts of discrimination. Hence, persecution and oppression of blacks continued with the tacit consent of the court and government. This led to the use of Lynch court and other terrible acts of violence towards the black population, virtually unprotected by law (Bruce & Murray, 1901).

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Today, the African American population still faces inequality in nearly all the fields. One of the most important issues is the police brutality towards them which is not new. Alang, McAlpine, McCreedy, and Hardeman (2017) argue that “historical evidence of public harming of Black bodies by police dates back at least to the era of slavery when police disciplined Blacks and recaptured those who escaped enslavement.“ On the other hand, Americans of any race can challenge many decisions and do exercise this right. Obama’s victory is one of the criteria for progress that the country has made. Modern young Americans should build the future of America of a wide and deep consensus based on the fact that the shameful history of slavery, segregation and barriers will be left in the past.

Historical Heritage and Conclusions

The Jim Crow laws case is important not only for me personally – it is a blatant historical precedent which consequences are still experienced by American society. This research made me understand that the modern national imagination tends to divide the racial inequality of the Civil War times and the present racial discrimination. In fact, today the society continues to rely on segregationists justifications. The vivid example is the Black Lives Matter movement against the police brutality towards African Americans.

To my mind, if a historian pursued this research, he would aim to convey to society the idea of injustice of a person’s rights oppression based on skin color. Knowledge of history is necessary for us to avoid the mistakes of the past, building the future of a nation. I have no doubt that any historian would agree that racial inequality is one of the most egregious mistakes in American history. Moreover, people should realize that historically any form of cruelty develops into a so-called revenge policy over time. Hence, the support of racial inequity, including resignation, is a direct way to an imminent collapse and intensification of civil divisions within the country. Being conscious citizens, we should direct our efforts towards unity, as it is the only right decision on the way to strengthening both the state and spiritual growth of the whole nation.

References

  1. Alang, S., McAlpine, D., McCreedy, E., & Hardeman, R. (2017). Police Brutality and Black Health: Setting the Agenda for Public Health Scholars. Retrieved from doi:10.2105/AJPH.2017.303691
  2. Brown v. Board of Education. (n.d.). Separate is not equal. Web.
  3. Constitutional Rights Foundation. (n.d.). Southern Black Codes. Web.
  4. Hansan, J.E. (2011). Jim Crow laws and racial segregation. Social Welfare History Project. Web.
  5. Notable Kentucky African Americans Database. (n.d.). Ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15thAmendments (Kentucky).
  6. Pilgrim, D. (2012). What was Jim Crow. Ferries State University. Web.
  7. Reconstruction: The Second Civil War. (n.d.). White southern responses to black emancipation. Web.

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