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Jim Crow’s Laws and Its Effect on People of Color

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Danae Caspary

Jim Crow’s Laws and Its Effect on People of Color

Jim Crow was a character in minstrel shows that wore black makeup to cover his face.  It became known as a derogatory epithet for African Americans.  The Jim Crow Law led segregation between whites and blacks in schools, libraries, parks, restrooms, buses, trains, restaurants, drinking fountains and other public places.  Legal penalties were set by the government on persons caught associating with members of another race.  Intermarriage was forbidden and businesses and private institutions were instructed to separate their black and white clientele.  All these rules were changed from the passing of the “Voting Rights Act of 1965, which eliminated the barriers of voting for all citizens, regardless of race. 

After the Civil War, the southern states did not think that segregation laws would be needed as long as a slave did whatever was asked of them.  Texas wanted a law requiring every passenger train to have a car specifically for people of color.  This law came about because of 1875’s Civil Rights Act which stated “Separate but Equal” facilities, and transportation for people of color.  If the law “Separate but Equal” was not enforced by railroad employees they were fined and possibly jailed for not following orders.  “The Black Code” made Congress passes the 14th and 15th amendments.  The 14th amendment gave citizenship to all people born in the United States, giving them equal protection under the law no matter of race and gave them the right to vote.   The 15th amendment took voting rights further by guaranteeing them to citizens of race, color or a former slave.  These amendments did not completely prevent states from disenfranchising African-Americans from the polls, such as poll taxes and literacy tests.  Segregation was a custom of the U.S.  Until 1950’s, that is when “Separate but Equal” was challenged by activists.   Rosa Parks refused to move to a seat in the black section of a bus in Montgomery ALA, causing the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Intense Civil Rights Movement of 1950’s and 60’s.   The Jim Crow Laws were written mainly for the Negroes, but later also included the Indians, Mexicans and Chinese immigrants.   The Chinese were criticized for different religion, using opium, playing different card games, playing gambling games, speaking a different language, wearing a different style of clothing, eating different food, celebrating different holidays, and for living in a bachelor society instead of a with a family, of a wife and children.  One example of differences was the “queque” the long hair braided hanging down his back.  For a Chinese man to cut his hair was a capital crime punishable by beheading and they were expecting to be able to go home so it was important for them to keep their hair long and braided.  Americans considered the hairstyle unhygienic and unmanly.  Chinese immigrants were viewed not only as being inferior and undesirable people but as a threat to American culture, government and even the Caucasian race.  Whites couldn’t understand how Chinese could live in such crowded, poor conditions and above all, work so hard for the low wages they were receiving.  It was thought by the Caucasians that Chinese had super human powers, probably because of their religion, strange culture or by smoking opium, which must have made them accept their situation in life and their continued work morals.  Novelists wrote stories with Chinese characters that seemed to be quiet and submissive but were really sinister and cunning.  It was believed that the Chinese had plans to invade and take over the government of the United States. These novels played on racial fears of Americans who feared the tainting of American WASP blood and heritage by mixing races.  (WASP this offensive term is for a white person who has a Protestant Anglo-Saxon background and is viewed as belonging to the dominant and most powerful level of society.)

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