In 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation established a national intent to eradicate slavery in the U.S., but it only affected the states that had joined the Confederacy. The Confederates built an explicitly white-supremacist, pro-slavery, and antidemocratic nation-state, dedicated to the principle that all men are not created equal. Decades of state and federal legislation around civil rights followed. After the Civil War ended, several southern states immediately enacted a body of laws, statutes and rules to regain control over the freed slaves, maintain White Supremacy, and ensure the continued supply of cheap labor.” Known as the “Black Codes,” they were modeled after pre-Civil War slave codes.
Three amendments to the U.S. Constitution brought an end to these Black Codes. Ratified on December 6, 1865, 13th Amendment officially abolished slavery in this country. The 14th Amendment, adopted on July 9, 1866, set forth three principles:
● All persons born or naturalized in the U.S. were citizens for the nation and no state could make or enforce any law that would abridge their rights of citizenship.
● No state could deny any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.
● No state could deny any person equal protection of the laws.
Finally, the 15th Amendment granted African American men the right to vote by declaring that the "right of citizens of the U.S. to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the U.S. or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." Although ratified on February 3, 1870, the promise of the 15th Amendment would not be fully realized for almost a century.
Immediately after the Civil War ended, some states began imposing restrictions on the daily lives of African Americans, whether they were survivors of slavery or had always been free. By the end of the 19th century, laws or informal practices that required that African Americans be segregated from whites were often called “Jim Crow Laws." Source is Woodward, C. Vann and McFeely, William S. (2001), The Strange Career of Jim Crow. p. 7
The origin of the phrase "Jim Crow" has often been attributed to "Jump Jim Crow", a song-and-dance caricature (Video) of black people performed, in blackface, by a white actor Thomas Dartmouth Rice, which first surfaced in 1828. It was used to satirize Andrew Jackson's populist policies. As a result of Rice's fame, by 1838 "Jim Crow” had become a derogatory expression meaning "Negro." Using poll taxes, literacy tests and other means, Southern states were able to effectively disenfranchise African Americans. It would take the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before the majority of African Americans in the South were registered to vote. Source
With the Compromise of 1877, political power was returned to Southern whites in nearly every state of the former Confederacy. The federal government abandoned attempts to enforce the 14th and 15th amendments in many parts of the country. By 1890, when Mississippi added a disfranchisement provision to its state constitution, the legalization of Jim Crow had begun.
Jim Crow was not enacted as a universal, written law of the land. Instead, a patchwork of state and local laws, codes, and agreements enforced segregation to different degrees and in different ways across the nation. In many towns and cities, ordinances designated white and black neighborhoods, while in others covenants and unwritten agreements among real estate interests maintained residential segregation. African Americans were denied the right to vote by onerous poll taxes, unfairly applied tests, and other unjust barriers. The signs we associate today with Jim Crow—"Whites Only," "Colored"—appeared at bus stations, water fountains and rest rooms, as well as at the entrances and exits to public buildings. Hotels, movie theaters, arenas, night clubs, restaurants, churches, hospitals, and schools were segregated, and interracial marriages outlawed. Segregation was not limited to African Americans, but often applied to other non-white Americans.
Segregation was often maintained by uniformed law enforcement. In other instances, it was enforced by armed white mobs and violent attacks by anonymous vigilantes such as the Ku Klux Klan. African Americans resisted these pervasive restrictions using many different strategies, from public advocacy and political activism to individual self-defense and attempts to escape to a better life. In the century following the end of Reconstruction, millions of African Americans moved away from the South in what became known as the Great Migration, only to discover that they faced discrimination in the northern states. [The above text was excerpted from many of the articles published online by the Library of Congress and the National Park Service.]
In the middle of the twentieth century, generations of resistance to segregation culminated in the Civil Rights movement, in which African Americans demanded the rights and protections provided by the Constitution. As a result, a series of new legislation and landmark court cases in the 1950s and 60s, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 d Loving v. Virginia (388 U.S. 1), relegated many of the Jim Crow laws and practices of the previous century to the dustbin of history.
However, one additional hardship created by the Jim Crow era has never been fully addressed and, therefore, not resolved. Segregation laws prevented African Americans from having equal health facilities and equality under the law. The worst effects that African Americans faced came from the laws that hindered Blacks’ abilities to gain access to medical facilities and necessary medical treatments. Source And mistrust of vaccines has its roots in the 40-year PHS Syphilis Study at Tuskegee which began in 1932. Source
We cannot let history repeat itself
In 1865, the military battles of the Civil War ended. In 2020, we must finally eradicate the prejudice that started that war and lives on today toward all people of color. When the Confederate States of America was formed in 1861 to succeed from the Union to protect its right to own slaves, Alexander H. Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederacy declared: “The Confederacy's foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and moral condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”
We also need to remove all the symbols that have delayed its demise. To proudly display the flag and believe in its symbolism—and honor the men who led the rebellion—flies in the face of the ideals set forth in our Constitution. It is a direct violation of the intent of our Constitution and the wording of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. And, equally important—the Confederacy killed more than 200,000 American troops! Once we can begin the discussions on the underlining causes of this racism, we can begin to unite our nation once again by following the ideas and beliefs that led to its formation.
For information on Jim Crow Laws for each state and related topics, click on the appropriate link below.