Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rosa Parks & Jim Crow Laws: A Brief History

Jim Crow laws danced off stage when Rosa Parks, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Little Rock Nine, Woolworth Sit-ins, Freedom Riders and the rest of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement  forced U.S. race relations to change.

Jim Crow Minstrel Character Singing & Dancing To Racist Music
Jim Crow Minstrel Character
Singing & Dancing
To Racist Music

Jim Crow laws are dead; Rosa Parks, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Martin Luther King and other civil rights protests saw to it.

However, the Civil Rights Movement did not gain America racial harmony. In the 1950s and '60s, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Brown v the Board of Education, Woolworth's Sit-ins, Freedom Riders and so many others battled discrimination and violence left over from the growth of Black Codes established to control slaves and free persons of color. Jim Crow laws were modeled from Black Codes .and used to strangled America throughout the Civil Rights Movement. 

Is it true that Jim Crow is still alive today in a different form in post-racism America?

No Food or Latino Allowed Beyond this Sign
Signs of the Times
Throughout literary history, it can be seen that Jim Crow was not just the stage character's name or music, but represented a symbol of fear in the hearts of African Americans and other white and nonwhite ethnic groups. These black codes and laws ruled the South, North, East, Mid-West and West into the Twentieth Century. Although there was no legal framework in American law to discriminate legally against ethnic groups other than African Americans, Jim Crow laws spread discriminatory treatment across all racial and color lines.

Race, Ethnicity, and Minority
Housing in the United
States by Momeni,
(Google Affiliate Ad)
Today, black codes and Jim Crow laws translate into hate crimes against Hispanics, the largest group in the United States against whom hate crimes are perpetrated. The FBI is reporting that 66% of hate crimes in this country are committed against Hispanics. It is estimated that the percentage would be higher if undocumented residents reported more hate crimes against them. Their fear of being discovered and removed from this country keeps them from reporting hate crimes against them. Hispanics, especially the undocumented from Mexico, believe they are easy targets because of their lack of U.S. citizenship and language. 

Jim Crow laws, prejudice and discrimination were not reserved for black Americans. Segregation was prevalent in most communities where color, features, accent, religion and customs were different. People were separated for housing, services, accommodations in public facilities and even music on the radio. 

The Politics of Ethnicity  in Settler Societies:  States of Unease
The Politics of Ethnicity 
in Settler Societies: States 
of Unease by Pe 
(Google Affiliate Ad)
The politics of ethnicity  began to form in Early American settlements, making it common all over the nation to see signs in businesses: No Mexicans, No Indians, No Jews, No Japs, No Niggers, No Italians, No Filipinos, No Chinese, No Irish, No Colored of Any Kind served here. Many times, people have a prejudice against a language or dialect. Understanding prejudice is the first step to eliminating the disease.

Learn a new language to combat language-based racism and prejudice.

One way to combat language-based racism is to learn to speak another language or to learn the music of other cultures that have become prevalent in your region. This will welcome the group and also expand your range of racial tolerance and understanding. If you can communicate with a person, you are able to develop empathy for them and realize you have more in common and you may have realized.Also, there are studies indicating that learning Spanish or another foreign languages will help fight the onset of Alzheimer's disease. 

My part-Comanche grandmother, Bigmama, the major subject in my book, Bigmama Didn't Shop At Woolworth's, said, "Integration was a matter of economics. They were losing too much money not serving us. When you weigh money against anything in this country, money will probably win."
In the 1830s, Thomas Dartmouth "Daddy" Rice, a white New York stage performer, painted his face with black cork and gave birth to the Jim Crow minstrel character, copied for decades. Rice gave Jim Crow laws a face, name, voice, music and song. Thomas Dartmouth "Daddy" Rice was born in 1808, the year U.S. African slave importation became illegal (but did not stop) and died in 1860, before southern slaves were freed. 

In the 1830s, Rice a failed performer, stole his act from a black man he saw singing and dancing for his own entertainment. 

Rice transformed what he saw into a character to commercialize, blackened his face and limbs with burnt cork--far darker than human skin. He perfected his blackface act of dance, music with a racist ditty to a white audience in a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, theater to rave reviews. Rice carried Jim Crow dance and music to white theaters throughout the United States--North and South--and to Europe, spawning copiers. Jim Crow music ensembles gave birth to a new genre of entertainment in America and the world, the minstrel show, which followed African Americans into every other medium of entertainment to come, including radio, movies, television and stage and did not end until after the Civil Rights Movement.

The Civil Rights Movement began long before Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was not long off the back roads as a rural attorney on the Eighth Judicial circuit traveling in his buggy hitched to his horse, Old Buck. He traveled 400 miles and stayed away from from home working ten weeks at a time stopping for court sessions in seven towns. On the road, he cut his speech-making teeth in tiny courtrooms and loved every minute of it.

Lincoln, a young self-educated lawyer and family man had ambitions. By 1844, he had won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives where he became acquainted with anti-slavery movements and the danger of perpetuating slavery and slave codes into western U.S. territories. Able to stop slavery, Lincoln was not able to stop the slave code from becoming the framework for the body of legislation later to be represented by Jim Crow laws.

Jim Crow in minstrel shows represented the stigma being fought by Sojourner Truth and others before Rosa Parks' generation of civil rights activists was born. Outliving slavery by 100 years, Jim Crow lived into the 20th century. As tensions grew, southerners kidnapped Jim Crow from stages and transformed the character into the preferred role for African Americans and imitators of black culture. Jim Crow made its way from theater stages to legislation, becoming a model, subverting gains African Americans were promised after the Civil War. Andrew Johnson and Abraham Lincoln did not share views on slavery or civil rights for freemen.

The Emancipation  Proclamation:  A Brief History  with Documents
The Emancipation Proclamation:
 A Brief History with Documents 
by Voren (Google Affiliate Ad)
Lincoln entered the presidential race in 1860 to fight the spread of slavery into the Western Territories. On January 1, 1863, during his presidency, Lincoln authored and issued the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order freeing slaves in the U.S. South. By that time, northern states had already freed their slaves. The intent of the document was to prevent the further spread of slavery and to avoid black codes and job discrimination growing in Northern states in response to labor competition by freed slaves. These battles were still being fought when Martin Luther King  wrote letters from jail in the 1950s and, in the opinions of some Americans, still be fought today.

Executive Order Emancipation Proclamation
Executive Order
Emancipation Proclamation
Four months after Union armies defeated Confederates at the Battle of Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address at the Soldiers' National Cemetery dedication in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. 

Eventually, Lincoln led the Union to victory and dismantled the institution of  human bondage in the United States. Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, an event covered in The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant.

Abraham Lincoln was shot  just five days later during the play, Our American Cousin.

Good Friday, April 14, 1865, Confederate sympathizer, descendant of Jewish-Portuguese thespians and a stage actor himself, John Wilkes Booth shot the president at the Ford Theater

With the popularity of blackface minstrel shows being at their height, Booth was certainly familiar with blackface minstrel shows. In fact, his nationally acclaimed  older brother, Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth, was said to have blackened his face and performed in minstrel shows early in his career.

What better way for a young student to be introduced to the history the United States than through the study of the nation's important documents. These lessons are fun, as well as informative later on when the student prepares for college entrance examinations. Also, these documents may be useful in preparing for US Citizenship Tests. 

Reconstruction President Andrew Johnson, had been Lincoln's vice president. When Johnson became president, he vetoed The Civil Rights Act of 1866, which declared, "all persons born in the United States are now citizens, without regard to race, color, or previous condition." Much of the spirit and language in the new law was drawn directly from  Lincoln as illustrated in his Emancipation Proclamation and alluded to in his Gettysburg Address. 

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 passed, in spite of President Andrew Johnson's veto. Passing the law did not accomplish its intent. Johnson's failure to protect the rights of former slaves resulted in the failure of Reconstruction. In the meanwhile, racist groups in the South began writing their own laws to maintain racial status quo, leading to the creation of Black Codes or Jim Crow laws and the further spread of the infamous blackface minstrel show. 

Stepin Fetchit & Will Rogers
Stepin Fetchit & Will Rogers
Play Clip: Judge Priest
Fox Studios (1934)

Black entertainers who were made to blacken up before taking the stage, later were allowed to play roles in early Hollywood without blackface, as long as their characters were dopey with shiftless attitudes and slurred unintelligible speech. Characterizations such as these were unacceptable to black people, but were retained for many decades, requiring a fight to be waged against Jim Crow in order to remove the degrading portrayals from the silver screen.

Race Relations in Southern California gives a closer look at racism and discrimination against black women in early movies and Southern California female professionals.

After the Civil War, the Reconstruction Congress passed The Civil Rights Act of 1866, which  declared, "all persons born in the United States are now citizens, without regard to race, color, or previous condition." This statement remained only a statement on the books through many decades of protest and resistance, while American society was allowed to create a system of legal discrimination, backed up by groundless biological assertions, and to sort out its demons on its own terms, in its own time.

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 passed over President Andrew Johnson's veto. Much has been said about the inaction of Andrew Johnson after the Civil War, when the United States was scheduled to enter a period of Reconstruction. This period was meant to be used to rebuild the nation and phase African Americans, both former slaves and free black persons, fully into society. As new citizens of the United States, former slaves could make and enforce contracts, sue and be sued, give evidence in court, and inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property. Persons who denied these rights to former slaves were guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction faced a fine not exceeding $1,000, or imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both. 

Strange Fruit: 
Plays on Lynching 
by American Women
Lynching by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) became a key ingredient in the enforcement of the Jim Crow system in most parts of the officially segregated South and, to a large degree, universally enforced in the unofficially segregated North. When the KKK undermined the civil rights of former slaves, Reconstruction failed to guarantee their protection. Female African Americans who suffered retaliation for speaking out for their civil rights became victims of lynching, which led to a female outcry in the late Nineteenth Century against racially motivated lynching in the United States.

The 1896 Supreme Court decision, Plessy v Ferguson, legalized separate but equal when a black man lost his case against the railroad for refusing him a first-class seat in the white section of the train. The ruling laid a foundation for Jim Crow discrimination and segregation in accommodations, services, public education, housing, hiring, health, equal protection, representation and everything else.

Rosa Parks Montgomery Bus Boycott
Rosa Parks
Montgomery Bus Boycott

To reduce Jim Crow laws to a pile of rags in back of the stage, it took thousands of civil rights protests and activists of all races, including, Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Woolworth Sin-ins, Diane Nash, the Freedom Riders and others taking on Jim Crow, some whose names are unrecorded; others who died in the battle.

The ills of Jim Crow laws began to be rolled back 100 years later by President Lyndon Johnson when he signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965Until another President Johnson, Lyndon B. Johnson, signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Jim Crow held a firm hold on race relations in the United States. This Act reversed and prohibited employment discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, or religion; and prohibited public access discrimination, leading to desegregation of everything that had been legally segregated by Plessy v Ferguson in 1896.

The death of Jim Crow laws had finally begun with the signing of this new law that began under President Johnson's predecessor, President John F. Kennedy, whose position Vice President Johnson had inherited after the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. Unlike President Andrew Johnson nearly 100 years earlier during Reconstruction, President Lyndon Johnson, during the Civil Rights Movement, put teeth into his new law and backed up its proclamations with inspirational words, as well as federal troops.

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My mother, Littie Nash, wrestled with Jim Crow racism while giving me the life of a little princess with imagination and without the luxury of having a lot of money...Read more at: Great Mothering in Jim Crow's World.
Kindle Fire
Full Color 7"
Multi-touch Display

Many books are now available on the new Kindle Fire, Full Color 7" Multi-touch Display, Wi-Fi, which also offers more than a million digital books, movies, TV shows, songs, magazines, news, apps, games, and more. Enjoy the Kindle Fire's vibrant color, touch-screen with extra-wide viewing angle, ultra-fast web browsing, powerful dual-core processor, free cloud storage for your content and an array of useful and attractive accessories like the Kindle Fire Leather Cover by Marware.

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks:
Rosa Parks: A Biography
 (Kindle Edition)

And don’t forget about the kids! Kindle Fire and  products provide an excellent opportunity for parents to build a digital library for their children with a digital reader, affordable enough for each child to have their own.  

Kindle provides a wide choice in children’s reading and rich color pictures books like Rosa Parks - A Short Biography for Kids (Kindle Edition) by Jonathan Madden, an introduction to civil rights hero, Rosa Parks, is.a short biography, written and designed for kids, summarizing her protest to end Jim Crow segregation in the South. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Sunny Nash

Bigmama Didn't Shop
At Woolworth's
by Sunny Nash
Sunny Nash is author of Bigmama Didn't Shop At Woolworth's, chosen by the Association of American University Presses as one of its essential books for understanding race relations in the United States, Bigmama Didn't Shop At Woolworth's (Texas A&M University Press) is also listed in the Bibliographic Guide to Black Studies by the Schomburg Center in New York and recommended for Native American collections by the Miami-Dade Public Library System in Florida.

Sunny Nash's book, Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s, began when she was writing columns for Hearst and Knight-Ridder Newspapers in the 1990s. The columns were comprised of stories from her childhood in the Jim Crow South with her part-Comanche grandmother, Bigmama, her parents, relatives, friends, teachers and others in her life. She had no idea that these little vignettes would garner so much interest nationwide. But they did. With that, a managing editor at Texas A&M University Press, Mary Lenn Dixon, saw the merit in compiling these stories into a book and approached Nash about creating a manuscript of selected articles for review and eventual publication.

Sunny Nash's Publications List includes music biographies of jazz guitarist, Kenny Burrell; jazz trumpeter, Clark Terry; and R&B singer-songwriter, Ben E. King for the African American National Biography by Harvard and Oxford, edited by Henry Louis Gates and Evelyn Higginbotham. Nash's work also is collected in The African American West, A Century of Short Stories; Blacks in the American West and Beyond--America, Canada, and Mexico: A Selectively Annotated Bibliography; Reflections in Black, A History of Black Photographers 1840 - Present; Ancestry; African American Women Confront the West: 1600-2000; Black women in Texas history; Companion to Southern Literature; Texas Through Women's Eyes: The Twentieth-century Experience; Black Genesis: A Resource Book for African-American Genealogy; African American Foodways; Southwestern American Literature Journal; and other anthologies.

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