Jim Crow Laws was the name given to laws that were used in reinforcing racial segregation between 1866 and the 1950s in the South (Packard, 2002). Sothern legislators passed laws that required separation of whites from black in schools and public transportation. This segregation was further extended to cemeteries, parks, restaurants and theatres. All this was in an effort of trying to prevent any contact between whites and blacks as equals. It was famously regarded to as “separate but equal”. It grew to a very large extent that a Swedish reporter described the situation as “the only time there was contact between the two races is when black were serving whites” (Sturm, Tommaso & CCS, 2007).
Various states were affected including Arkansas and Alabama. These two states were both similar while still showing a few disparities in the way of life of “persons with color” and how they were treated. One of their main similarities was that blacks and whites could not attend the same schools or sit equally together in trains, buses, elevators, movie theaters and restaurants. Hendricks, a black insurance worker who lived in Birmingham, Alabama explains her experience in a recorded interview. She had to sit behind a board that was written “colored” as she rode to work. The whites would then seat in front of this board. As more whites boarded a bus, the board will be further moved behind to provide them with more sitting spaces. This was to an extent that blacks would be made to get up for whites to sit because of the color of their skin (Whorley, 1994). The situation was similar in Arkansas. When it came to schools, segregation was very common. The Scott Barnes family, a rich black family that resided in Madison was unable to get their children light-skinned enrolled to a white school. This was even after the family gave thousands of dollars to the school. Their father was kicked out of white meetings whenever he tried to attend them (Ortiz, 1995).
Alabama was characterized by rampant acts of violence against the black community by the whites. This was witnessed by the attack of Judge Aaron by the Ku Klux Klan in the streets of Tarrant City. He was an old, black, mentally challenged man who was attacked by three white men. They took him to the woods where they castrated him (Whorley, 1994). The reason behind this atrocity was simply the dark shade of his skin. These acts were also mirrored in Arkansas. In Forrest City, Arkansas black people used to be hung under trees (Ortiz, 1995).
Apart from the ill treatment of blacks in Alabama and Arkansas, the two states also had their differences. One of them was the role played by the church. The black community in both states were dedicated church goers. In Alabama, the church played a major role in fighting for equality and human rights for the black people. It did this through preachers who urged the congregation to become registered voters. Most of the blacks during Jim Crow were illiterate, therefore, preachers took the responsibility of providing leadership. Through the church, many illiterate blacks were taught how to read and write in order to pass the test of becoming a voter (Whorley, 1994). On the other hand, the church played a different role in Arkansas. The church was an institution of providing help to the black community. This was done by handing down of clothes and shoes, both new and second-hand to those that needed them the most by the preachers (Ortiz, 1995). It was instrumental in providing for the less fortunate in the black community.
Another major difference was on security. The two states showed disparity in how the police treated blacks. In Arkansas, the police provided help to black people that needed them. This was portrayed in a recording of a black woman called Dennis. She explained that when she was young, her family once lived in a sharecrop. Her mother worked on a farm of that was owned by a white man. The owner locked their home and all their belongings even after her mother had picked cotton form his farm. He then made her pick cotton for his neighbors but would still not unlock the house. Dennis and her siblings were forced to live with different people. Her mother sought the help of a lawyer who sent two of his deputies with a wagon to get their belongings. Upon arrival onto the farm, a confrontation ensued between the farm owner and the deputies which left the farm owner dead. Dennis’s family as able to reacquire their belongings and move to another home (Ortiz, 1995). However, the same protection Dennis and her family enjoyed in spite of being black was non-existent in Alabama. Violent crimes like that of Judge Aaron occurred in broad daylight and no investigations nor arrests were ever carried out by the police. Furthermore, blacks who spearheaded for equality and respect of human rights had their homes bombed by white extremists (Whorley, 1994). The police never offered them any protection and they were left to rely on each other.
J., Tommaso, R., & Center for Cartoon Studies. (2007). Satchel Paige: Striking out Jim Crow. New York, N.Y: Jump at the Sun.
Ortiz, P. (1995). Interview with Dora Strong Dennis. Retrieved June 30, 2015, from http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/behindtheveil_btvct01115/
Packard, J. M. (2002). American nightmare: The history of Jim Crow. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Sturm,
Whorley, T. (1994). Interview with Lola Haynes Hendricks. Retrieved June 30, 2015, from http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/behindtheveil_btvct02013/
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