Posted in Black History

Jim Crow Laws

Jim Crow laws were a collection of state and local statutes that legalized racial segregation.

Named after a Black minstrel show character, the laws—which existed for about 100 years, from the post-Civil War era until 1968—were meant to marginalize African Americans by denying them the right to vote, hold jobs, get an education or other opportunities. Those who attempted to defy Jim Crow laws often faced arrest, fines, jail sentences, violence and death.

Black Codes

The roots of Jim Crow laws began as early as 1865, immediately following the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States.

Black codes were strict local and state laws that detailed when, where and how formerly enslaved people could work, and for how much compensation. The codes appeared throughout the South as a legal way to put Black citizens into indentured servitude, to take voting rights away, to control where they lived and how they traveled and to seize children for labor purposes.

The legal system was stacked against Black citizens, with former Confederate soldiers working as police and judges, making it difficult for African Americans to win court cases and ensuring they were subject to Black codes.

These codes worked in conjunction with labor camps for the incarcerated, where prisoners were treated as enslaved people. Black offenders typically received longer sentences than their white equals, and because of the grueling work, often did not live out their entire sentence.

READ MORE: How the Black Codes Limited African American Progress

Ku Klux Klan

During the Reconstruction era, local governments, as well as the national Democratic Party and President Andrew Johnson, thwarted efforts to help Black Americans move forward.

Violence was on the rise, making danger a regular aspect of African American life. Black schools were vandalized and destroyed, and bands of violent white people attacked, tortured and lynched Black citizens in the night. Families were attacked and forced off their land all across the South.

The most ruthless organization of the Jim Crow era, the Ku Klux Klan, was born in 1865 in Pulaski, Tennessee, as a private club for Confederate veterans.

The KKK grew into a secret society terrorizing Black communities and seeping through white Southern culture, with members at the highest levels of government and in the lowest echelons of criminal back alleys.

READ MORE: How Prohibition Fueled the Rise of the KKK

Jim Crow Laws Expand

At the start of the 1880s, big cities in the South were not wholly beholden to Jim Crow laws and Black Americans found more freedom in them.

This led to substantial Black populations moving to the cities and, as the decade progressed, white city dwellers demanded more laws to limit opportunities for African Americans.

Jim Crow laws soon spread around the country with even more force than previously. Public parks were forbidden for African Americans to enter, and theaters and restaurants were segregated.

Segregated waiting rooms in bus and train stations were required, as well as water fountains, restrooms, building entrances, elevators, cemeteries, even amusement-park cashier windows.

Laws forbade African Americans from living in white neighborhoods. Segregation was enforced for public pools, phone booths, hospitals, asylums, jails and residential homes for the elderly and handicapped.

Some states required separate textbooks for Black and white students. New Orleans mandated the segregation of prostitutes according to race. In Atlanta, African Americans in court were given a different Bible from white people to swear on. Marriage and cohabitation between white and Black people were strictly forbidden in most Southern states.

It was not uncommon to see signs posted at town and city limits warning African Americans that they were not welcome there.

READ MORE: How Nazis Were Inspired by Jim Crow Laws

Ida B. Wells

As oppressive as the Jim Crow era was, it was also a time when many African Americans around the country stepped forward into leadership roles to vigorously oppose the laws.

Memphis teacher Ida B. Wells became a prominent activist against Jim Crow laws after refusing to leave a first-class train car designated for white people only. A conductor forcibly removed her, and she successfully sued the railroad, though that decision was later reversed by a higher court.

Angry at the injustice, Wells devoted herself to fighting Jim Crow laws. Her vehicle for dissent was newspaper writing: In 1889 she became co-owner of the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight and used her position to take on school segregation and sexual harassment.

Wells traveled throughout the South to publicize her work and advocated for the arming of Black citizens. Wells also investigated lynchings and wrote about her findings.

A mob destroyed her newspaper and threatened her with death, forcing her to move to the North, where she continued her efforts against Jim Crow laws and lynching.

READ MORE: When Ida B. Wells Took on Lynching

Charlotte Hawkins Brown

Charlotte Hawkins Brown was a North Carolina-born, Massachusetts-raised Black woman who returned to her birthplace at the age of 17, in 1901, to work as a teacher for the American Missionary Association.


Versatile Christian Blogger (Spiritual, Black History, Music, Nature, Miscellaneous). Wife of Minister F. D. Woods, mother of 3 young adults, grandmother of two granddaughters, one grandson. Lord willing, retiring on December 30, 2023, after 37 years on the job.

11 thoughts on “Jim Crow Laws

  1. Read a good bit of your attachment. Slavery in whatever form it comes is horrible. There were so many black women getting the truth out at the risk of there lives. The memorial in Alabama is a place I would like to visit some time. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Horrible indeed. You are definitely right about women getting the truth out and many are on my list to share. I wish everyone could visit the memorial and the interactive Legacy Museum. We were told teachers from many other states take their students there on field trips. Thank you for your comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am truly horrified as I watch what is happening all through out our country, from banning books, my black brothers and sisters living in fear, so are the ones who are chronically ill like my own daughter (and my soon to be ex-husband was not white so she is half white) that is not including the community of the LGBTQ, people are in fear all over the place, and it is coming from the ones who claim they are Christian and by the way they are a cult, and these churches (not all) pastors have been arrested because of raping children. Jesus calls us to love our neighbors. There are more than two genders I know that now because my daughter who is chronically ill she is neither male or female she is missing chromosome, My own daughter was a conjoin twin and she also absorb some of her sisters, and this has been happening since the beginning of time. Let us just love one another and try to live in peace.
    Blessings to you my sister

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I take no pride in having to share these horrible events about Black History, but I am thankful to God that one way or another the world will read the hidden truth of Black history. I am glad to share the hidden achievements of Black Americans during such harsh times even though most of their inventions and land were stolen from them. “There is no American History without the truth of Black History.” —Tangie T. Woods


      1. Correct if everyone and if people just take the dna test with ancestry you will find out you have a blood line that comes back to Africa because when I did mine a few years ago, my DNA blood line goes back to Africa. I was shock to learn more about Black History than what I was taught in school. I have never and I mean never seen so much hatred among people. the white race. They need to wake up and realize that God created us all.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You are definitely correct that we all were birth through Adam and Eve (no one “pure” bloodline. I said this before and some people do not like it but if Black Americans knew the truth about Black history there would perhaps not be so much Black-on-Black crimes–this too is shameful, and I will be writing about it soon. Thank you for sharing your ancestry results and comments.

        Liked by 1 person

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