Freedom: A History of US

Webisode 7. Segment 6
Jim Crow

It is clear. Reconstruction is over. The Northerners who had tried to help in the South are pushed out. Some are lynched. Southern whites who try to be fair to the former slaves are ridiculed, and they too are sometimes lynched. A new policy of separation takes over in the South. Thomas Hall was a former slave. He said, "The Yankees helped free us, but they let us be put back in slavery again."

Before the Civil War, the North had something the South didn't have. It had segregation. In the North, the races were separated—not by law, but by habit. Usually blacks (and Indians, and Asians) were not welcome in white hotels, restaurants, schools, or theaters. They could not get good jobs. The name for that segregation became Jim Crow. Jim Crow wasn't real. He was the name of a character in a song—a song about a black man who sang and danced and never gave anyone trouble. The song went like this: "Wheel about, turn about, dance jest so, Every time I wheel about I shout Jim Crow See It Now - "Jim Crow Jubiliee"."

In the South, before the Civil War, there was slavery but not segregation. Segregation cannot coexist with slavery; masters and their slaves must live in close proximity. After the Civil War, things in the North stayed much the same. Segregation by habit continued. But in the South, nothing was the same. In 1877, when congressional Reconstruction ended and the army troops left, the South was on its own. The black activist Frederick Douglass See It Now - Frederick Douglass explained: Hear It Now - Frederick Douglass "A former slave was free from the individual master, but the slave of society. He had neither money, property, nor friends. He was free from the old plantation, but he had nothing but the dusty road under his feet."

Jim Crow is now dancing across the South. Soon blacks and whites ride in separate railroad cars, go to separate schools, get buried in separate cemeteries, pray in separate churches, and eat in separate eating places. Blacks can do nothing about it. And now, they can't vote.

Are the Southern states defying the Constitution and its amendments? Of course they are! Listen again to the Fourteenth Amendment: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

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