Sunday, February 10, 2013

Founding Fathers, Jim Crow Laws & Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King used the Montgomery Bus Boycott to challenge Jim Crow laws Founding Fathers and the Framers of the Constitution facilitated.

Civil rights activists,  Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, led the Montgomery Bus Boycott to fight oppression nearly 200 years after the Founding Fathers helped create the system that soured into Jim Crow laws when the Framers wrote the U.S. Constitution.

Founding Fathers

From 1775 to 1783, the Founding Fathers and Framers, who were delegates to the Constitutional Convention, along with others of their kind, had witnessed America's victory in the American Revolutionary War against Great Britain. Although, these men may not have intended to set Jim Crow loose on American soil, their high ideals slipped into the wrong and hands. 

At the time of the American Revolutionary War, slavery, already an institution that began with indentured servitude, had not become the economic backbone of the nation, nor could the future financial development of this peculiar institution be predicted. However, slavery was in existence in the entirety of the nation, both the North and the South. However, many of the southern states that would become so dependent upon a slave economy had not yet been formed. 

The 13 original colonies, except, Rhode Island, sent delegates to the Constitutional Convention on February 21, 1787. 

Men who represented northern states were from Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Southern Founding Fathers were from Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Northern states were the first to free slaves. Southern states later became part of the Confederacy that fought the Union during the Civil War to preserve slavery.

These men had no idea that one day the civil rights activist, Rosa Parks, would resist the system of Jim Crow laws.

Montgomery Bus Boycott
 and the Women
Who Started It:
The Memoir of
Jo Ann Gibson Robinson

During the early days of slavery in the brand new contradictory democracy, no one could have foreseen roles for civil rights activists like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, who led the Montgomery Bus Boycott almost 200 years later. At the time of the American Revolutionary War, the social status of human beings in the nation was determined by gender, wealth and race. Simply put, this meant the new nation judged that equality was not for all people, especially people who were female, poor or nonwhite, and therefore, not citizens and, for some, not quite human.

In 1776, one year into the war, the founding fathers created the Declaration of Independence. 

The names primarily associated with the Founding Fathers were John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington. Some of these same men were also Framers of the U..S. Constitution. Neither group was comprised of men who were landless, illiterate poor men; they were politicians, jurists, statesmen, soldiers, diplomats, scholars and financial leaders, many with roots in English gentry. These men were, therefore, citizens and quite human by their own standards. Accustomed to being served by others, most of these men acknowledged slavery through policy, practice or ownership. After all, at the time of the framing of the Constitution, only one colony had abolished slavery. That was Massachusetts.

In 1787, the Framers created the Constitution of the United States.

Rosa Parks & the Montgomery Bus Boycott Legacy Rosa Parks, who sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott,  was born 100 years ago.

Rosa Parks, 
Who sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott
Was born more than 100 years ago
In the Heart of the Deep South
In the Midst of the Jim Crow Era

Two years later, the Framers added the Bill of Rights, all of which excluded slaves, free men of color, landless white men and all women. 

Exclusion was the beginning of the very legalized Jim Crow laws that Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King fought during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, laws that should have been destroyed when Abraham Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation and then led the Union victory in the Civil War. Throughout modern history, movies have attempted to shed understanding on the subject of civil rights and Jim Crow laws.

As early as the Revolutionary War, however, the Founding Fathers did not seem to think of gender bias and slavery in moral terms--right or wrong--when they sat down and fashioned their Declaration of Independence. Later, the same was true of the Framers when they wrote the Constitution. However, their anti-slavery sentiments are evident in their writing and their widely varied ownership, which is documented in historical records. 

Founding Fathers' Attitudes on Slavery

John Adams
Signer of the Declaration
of Independence

John Adams, Massachusetts, did not own slaves; Benjamin Franklin owned two household slaves but espoused opposition to the institution of slavery; James Madison was against the slave trade but was a third-generation slave owner; George Washington became a slave owner at age 10 when his father died; and Thomas Jefferson owned nearly 700 slaves. Long before the Civil War, the Founding Fathers understood that human bondage had to be stopped to prevent the future destruction of the nation, but slavery was their heritage, passed down to them from their forefathers to be passed down to their offspring. Lives were grounded in a tradition that afforded them and their families certain benefits none were anxious to release.

Thomas Jefferson Signer of the Declaration of Independence

Thomas Jefferson
Signer of the Declaration
of Independence

CONSIDERATIONS Founding Fathers made in evaluating slavery were the economies of Colonial America and burgeoning territories, all deeply dependent upon slavery. Moreover, the colonies were at war for independence, while the wealthy and educated Founding Fathers formulated the doctrines of the new nation, founded on freedom and the equality of its citizens, a group that did not include poor white men, women or slaves. Male slaves were assigned a shadow of citizenship after the Civil War, which ended in 1865, three-quarters of a century after the Bill of Rights, when all the founding fathers were dead. 

Perhaps, without intention, the Founding Fathers left behind entangled webs of racial classification and misunderstanding for future generations to figure out and grapple with to this day. In fact, one rationale for the Civil War was to prevent slavery from spreading Jim Crow laws and traditions into western territories and then allowing those territories to become slave states and continue to enlarge the problem of slavery beyond the areas that had already been so insidiously infected.

Incidentally, many people do not realize there was slavery in Northern states. New York abolish ed slavery in the 1700s, but did not free all slaves at once, freeing slaves according to age and years of service. The condition of former servitude did not disappear with northern slavery. For example, some white New Yorkers so fiercely opposed draft into the Civil War and the emancipation of southern slaves there was talk of New York seceding from the Union to join the Confederacy. Some white New Yorkers invaded neighborhoods of free black New Yorkers, burned homes and businesses and killed black residents in protest. 

Rosa Parks & Martin Luther King Montgomery Bus Boycott booking photos
Rosa Parks & Martin Luther King
Montgomery Bus Boycott
Martin Luther King 

& Jim Crow Laws

Did the Founding Fathers Have a Clue?

During the Civil War, the reaction of some New Yorkers was no different from the reaction of former Confederate southerners during the Civil Rights Movement 100 years later, when Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

    Bigmama Didn’t Shop  At Woolworth’s  Sunny Nash

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Sunny Nash author of bigmama didn't shop at woolworth's
Sunny Nash
Sunny Nash is an author, producer, photographer and leading writer on U.S. race relations. She writes books, blogs, articles and reviews, and produces media and images on U.S. history and contemporary American topics, ranging from Jim Crow laws to social media networking. Sunny Nash is the author of Bigmama Didn't Shop At Woolworth's (Texas A&M University Press), about life with her part-Comanche grandmother during the Civil Rights Movement.

Sunny Nash’s book is recognized by the Association of American University Presses as essential for understanding U.S. race relations. Nash's book is also listed in the Bibliographic Guide for black studies at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York; and recommended for Native American collections by the Miami-Dade Public Library System in Florida. Nash uses her book to write articles and blogs on race relations in America through topics relating to her life--from music, film, early radio and television, entertainment, social media, Internet technology, publishing, journalism, sports, education, employment, the military, fashion, performing arts, literature, women's issues, adolescence and childhood, equal rights, social and political movements--past and present—to today's post-racism. homepage

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Sunny Nash – Race Relations in America

1 comment:

  1. Racial and ethnic divides are in full steam today notwithstanding the implied "promise" inherent in the president's election. How do we get it to change? raynewman


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