Who was Jim Crow?
April 2, 2008 8:39 AM   Subscribe

If you hadn't heard of Jim Crow before, this is where you can find a brief history on the subject (along with a radio broadcast of some of the people who were involved). Bayard Rustin's Journey of Reconciliation: America's First Freedom Ride (You Don't Have To Ride "Jim Crow") was a precursor [audio and video] to the Civil Rights Movement of the 50's and 60's. (Also, a look at the Jim Crow Museum and a walk down Jim Crow Road today.) [previously*]
posted by hadjiboy (24 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Who hasn't heard of Jim Crow?
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:45 AM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh man, there is too much great stuff on MeFi today. As soon as I'm doing listening to the Smithsonian Sounds of America and to the This American Life piece I'll listen to these audio pieces and check out the links. Great post topic, thank you.
posted by Miko at 8:50 AM on April 2, 2008

Who hasn't heard of Jim Crow?

I don't know, people outside the US, maybe?
posted by hadjiboy at 8:56 AM on April 2, 2008

Who hasn't heard of Jim Crow?

Dude, over half the country doesn't know the name of the Vice-President.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:26 AM on April 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


See also Jim Crow
posted by y2karl at 9:34 AM on April 2, 2008

I don't know who Jim Crow is, but I know Jim Cow. That's the Bovine-American who integrated cattle. That's why they are black and white splotches.

posted by DU at 9:34 AM on April 2, 2008

Sometimes I think that we have made a lot of progress in desegregation, other times I think that laws which favor discrimination have just become more subtle. Take for example the way schools are supported by property taxes here in Oklahoma City: the better schools are in predominantly white suburbs, leaving de facto segregated and substandard schools in the poorer areas of the city. The poverty cycle remains unbroken.

As much as it pains me to admit it, I believe that Bush "No child left behind" may have done some good in the inner OKC area.
posted by francesca too at 9:35 AM on April 2, 2008

Even Americans might not be quite as familiar with Jim Crow as they think. I would be surprised if everyone knew, for instance,

-that Jim Crow was the name of a minstrel show character (first played by a white man)?
- that a 1947 "Journey of Reconciliation" developed by CORE sent a team of eight black and eight white men into the South to see whether Supreme Court rulings against segregation were being heeded. Several were arrested, and the judge was quoted as saying to the white men: "It's about time you Jews from New York learned that you can't come down her bringing your niggers with you to upset the customs of the South. Just to teach you a lesson, I gave your black boys thirty days, and I give you ninety."
-that 11 years before Rosa Parks, one Irene Morgan refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white couple. Her case, tried in the Supreme Court under the unterstate commerce provisions, ended in a ruling declaring segregation on interstate transportation unconstitutional.
-that the first interracial kiss on American television occurred on a 1968 Star Trek episode (Uhura kissed Kirk, under telekinetic orders)?
-that Jim Crow can be thought of not just as a system of laws, but as a much wider set of assumptions and codes that created a virtual caste system?
-that Stetson Kennedy, the author of Jim Crow Guide, offered these simple rules that Blacks were supposed to observe in conversing with Whites:

  • Never assert or even intimate that a White person is lying.
  • Never impute dishonorable intentions to a White person.
  • Never suggest that a White person is from an inferior class.
  • Never lay claim to, or overly demonstrate, superior knowledge or intelligence.
  • Never curse a White person.
  • Never laugh derisively at a White person.
  • Never comment upon the appearance of a White female.

    So again, great post, all good links. Having heard of Jim Crow is one thing - delving deeper is another, and hadjiboy, you created a really good way to do that.

  • posted by Miko at 9:39 AM on April 2, 2008 [11 favorites]

    I don't know about the others, but I'm sure a bunch of internet nerds (like me) already knew about the Star Trek thing.
    posted by DU at 9:46 AM on April 2, 2008

    I'm sure that's true, but I never heard that before.
    posted by Miko at 9:47 AM on April 2, 2008

    I'm currently reading Willie Morris' autobiography North Toward Home which contains a particularly lucid description of Jim Crow-era Mississippi in the first third of the book. Anyone generally interested in the subject would find his personal account of growing up in the south of the 1940's worth reading, I think.
    posted by Devils Rancher at 10:27 AM on April 2, 2008

    Thanks for this post. It led me to reread a bit about Reconstruction and the ensuing backlash, the Redeemer movement, which lends a great deal of support to the notion that the rise in southern Christian conservatism is really just a replacement for the racial component of Southern identity that goes back at least a century.
    posted by Pastabagel at 10:32 AM on April 2, 2008

    I haven't checked all the links yet, but the ones I did are all good. Very nice post, hadjiboy.

    Here in the south the attitudes behind Jim Crow are still all too common, yet the same people who hold them are the first to dismiss black anger (as exemplified by the whole Jeremiah Wright fuss) and wonder why "they don't just get over it".
    posted by TedW at 10:33 AM on April 2, 2008

    an aside: ever hear of Crow Jim (reverse)? blacks would not have whites playing in their bands.

    History: I am older guy.In (roughly) 1947 I got sent to Ft Lee, Virginia.Leaving base one day (I was but 17) and got on back of the bus.Driver told me to move up front. I blurted out that I was on govt reservation and could sit wherever I wanted. He said not a word. Outside main gate,stopped the bus and said Up front. You are in Virginia now. I moved. a few years later, got called back to service for Korean War. Truman had integrated the armed services in about then. And though America fought Hitler's the racist, we fought with segregated troops. In 1950,the services changed. Soon after,the govt integrated schools etc.
    posted by Postroad at 10:51 AM on April 2, 2008 [3 favorites]

    Bayard Rustin is one of my heroes. What a complicated and fiercely independent man of great integrity.
    posted by Falconetti at 11:23 AM on April 2, 2008

    These are all great links. I think the Jim Crow museum link is the best, especially images of their traveling exhibits. Thank you for posting this.
    posted by peppito at 12:13 PM on April 2, 2008

    Bayard Rustin is one of my heroes. What a complicated and fiercely independent man of great integrity.

    Agreed and I was very glad to see him in this FPP. From what I've read/seen, he doesn't always get his due because as an out gay man, he was often overlooked, or otherwise tried to blend into the background to avoid having his "lifestyle" used against him to discredit civil rights. I don't think many people realize that he introduced MLK Jr to non-violence as a political strategy, really mentored him in it.
    posted by sneakin at 2:47 PM on April 2, 2008

    But not the first Bayard Rustin post here either, let it be noted as well...
    posted by y2karl at 3:29 PM on April 2, 2008

    In 1963, just a week before my seventeenth birthday I got involved in this protest. Time says that “...the police, in firm control, prevented actual violence.” But they’re wrong about that. The Time reporter must have stayed at the front gate, where the Good-Humor ice cream guy was working a push cart freezer, hawking frosty treats to the awful goobers in the spectator section.

    When the cops hauled off a flower of a girl ,not conventionally pretty but beautiful, while the crowd roared obscenities, I couldn’t stand it anymore. So I went as deep back into the park as I could get.

    The back side of the park was bordered by Gwynns Falls, a sort of medium-big creek maybe 20 feet wide and not deep. Three protestors had waded across and I got there just in time to see them chased down and cornered. As best as I can remember their were two whites and one black and one was a woman. Then they started to stone them.

    Remember, I was just a kid and this was 1963. I had only seen shit about stoning in the Bible. But this was serious. The people were getting beat up as bad as if they were getting hit with clubs. Then, all of a sudden, a state cop showed up with a cop dog and the crowd melted away.
    posted by Huplescat at 3:56 PM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

    More context on the same thing in John Waters “Hairspray”.
    posted by Huplescat at 4:23 PM on April 2, 2008

    "Who hasn't heard of Jim Crow?"

    As one of the majority of the world's English speakers who doesn't live in the US, I can tell you that repeated references to Jim Crow in American writing puzzled me when I was younger. They didn't have enough context to make it obvious, there was no internet for me to search, and I didn't know any Americans personally whom I could ask. It would only be in the last four or five years that I actually tracked down a reasonably fleshed-out explanation of the phrase and its ramifications.
    posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:00 PM on April 2, 2008

    Great post, hadjiboy - thanks. I would also encourage people who are interested in the topic to visit the 2 past posts by y2karl, both superlative.

    I have been researching some links about what it was like for blacks to travel during Jim Crow days for a possible post - so this seems like as good place as any to post 'em.

    --Driving While Black: The Car and Race Relations in Modern America
    --Jim Crow on the Road
    --Digest Of Jim-Crow Laws Affecting Passengers in Interstate Travel

    Black travelers had to avoid sundown towns such as Vidor Texas and relied on the The Negro Motorist Green Book (annoyingly slow loading PDF but a fascinating historical artifact), a directory of friendly lodging and dining facilities.

    --Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism
    --Prior mefi post on sundown towns
    --Eliminationism in America
    --1957 newspaper travel ads from the Michigan Chronicle, a black newspaper.
    posted by madamjujujive at 8:56 PM on April 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

    mjjj, thank you so much for that, especially the Sundown Town link, which I'd come across (the word at least), but had forgotten to check up on.

    I had never heard of Jim Crow before until yesterday when I'd stumbled upon the Jim Crow Museum link and decided to do a bit of research on it. I thought it was a fascinating topic, one which isn't mentioned as much in public as it should be, regarding Mr. Bayard Rustin, who before this, was unheard of by me. So, it was educational to say the least, and I hope that at least those of us who've never heard of this man, can know of how much he contributed to the African American fight for freedom.
    posted by hadjiboy at 9:36 PM on April 2, 2008

    y2karl: thanks for the additional links, really appreciate it!
    posted by hadjiboy at 9:38 PM on April 2, 2008

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