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Voice of the people

Feb. 27, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Jim Crow laws are thankfully gone

February is Black History Month. One aspect of Black History that people know very little or nothing about are the Jim Crow Laws, which maintained racial segregation in the South beginning in the late 1800s. Whites and blacks drank from different water fountains, used different bathrooms and sat separately on public transportation and in restaurants. Blacks were not able to vote or to hold any office of responsibility. The military was also segregated. Blacks were regarded as second-class citizens.

Black travelers had to endure the humiliation of segregation on American railroads from the 1830s until the 1960s. The railroads had passenger cars for blacks that were called Jim Crow cars. In the South around 1850 all blacks were probably consigned to baggage cars or segregated combines with the exception of slaves in attendance with their owners.

The Supreme Court gave its approval to Jim Crow in the Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) case, in which it concluded the Constitution did not guarantee blacks "social equality" with whites. It required that the railroads provide separate but equal accommodations. The accommodations for blacks were rarely equal to those of whites.

Jim Crow cars tended to be older and more decrepit and were equipped with coal stoves and gas lamps. Since the cars were open air, cinders from the locomotive would blow into them. Blacks endured more discomfort than the white passengers.

Jim Crow Laws were banned as a result of legislative actions.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law on July 2, 1964, The Civil Rights Act of 1964 which provided among other things legislation that outlawed discrimination on public transportation.

The Jim Crow era has been infrequently acknowledged in literature because it is such an embarrassing subject. The good thing is the Jim Crow laws are something of the past.

Thomas F. Lambert




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