The name "Jim Crow" is synonymous with the racial segregation experienced in the United States mostly from 1870's through to the 1950s.The laws restricted integration of black, whites and coloreds in public facilities such as schools, public transport, restrooms, restaurants and even drinking fountains. The laws were supposedly to offer separate but equal services to the minority African Americans and the coloreds (the bi-racial).The racial segregation was very prevalent in the south and Border States. Jim Crow laws were not only about African segregation but were a way of life. The name "Jim Crow" was used in the early 19th century to refer to blacks. Thomas Dartmouth rice was a famous white minstrel popularized the name "Jim crow" as he imitated black dancers with his face painted black. The use of the name to refer to blacks lasted up to the 1870s. In the early 20th century, the name "Jim crow" was widely used to refer to the laws that were used to segregate African Americans. (Packard 28)
Jim Crow laws came in place after the reconstruction in 1887.The reconstruction period was the period in which civil right protection was offered to the freed slaves by the federal law. Segregation in the south began immediately after the civil war. During this period, former black slaves quickly created their own churches and schools separate from those of the whites. Most southern states therefore tried to limit the freedom and political involvement by the blacks. They therefore adopted the "black codes' meant to keep away African Americans from the white population. However, these laws lasted until the period of reconstruction (1866-186) when the federal government declared that it was illegal to discriminate against African Americans. African Americans made progress in building their own institutions, taking posts in public office and in passing civil rights law. Involvement of conservative democrats in southern politics made it difficult for African Americans to be elected in political office.
As a result white people in the south reacted by launching war on the blacks and the police did very little to protect them. This period saw the emergence of secret organizations like the Kuk Klux Klan that saw thousands of African Americans brutally beaten and killed. This period also saw white conservative democrats in the south use all possible means to block African American involvement in politics including the right to vote. Amendments were made on the constitution and other legislations to prevent blacks' from participation in local politics. Jim Crow laws were legislated and they segregated blacks from white populations. The early 20th century saw an increase in segregation to other areas that included the work place, public transport, restaurants, rest rooms and drinking fountains (Woodward 72).
The Jim Craw laws were meant to block blacks from integrating with the white population. The entrenchment of the laws into the constitution made life more difficult for the African Americans because segregation and discrimination was virtually legalized. The "separate but equal" phrase that was used during those days was actually sanctioned by the Supreme Court in the Plessy vs. Ferguson case in 1896.African Americans were subjected to harsh conditions that included attacks from lynch mobs. The system of land tenancy (sharecropping) in the 1890s also made it difficult for most blacks to be economically independent because they depended on their white property owners and merchant suppliers.
During this period, blacks tried to avoid the brutality of the whites by forming their own schools support groups so as not to engage the whites. The early 20th century saw African Americans conformity to the Jim Crow laws and had to come up with tactics that would keep them out of trouble from the whites. Segregation continued especially in the restaurants and other public places where blacks and whites would mix (Oshinsky 32).For instance black customers had to wait until a white customer gets served in a restaurant before they are served. Blacks also had to address whites with respect by the use of words such as Mr., Mrs., and Miss., while they endured words such as nigger and other abusive addresses (Haws 47).
Jim Crow laws continued in the first half of the 20th century and were also evident in the military, during world war two until it was abolished by Truman in 1948.Segregation of blacks and coloreds in public places continued in 1950s and 1960s and were mostly done in public transport, restaurants and drinking fountains. The separate but equal standards continued, for instance in Montgomery Alabama blacks were not allowed to take the same seats with whites in the municipal buses.
A white person was not supposed to stand and blacks were supposed to seat at the back, and if the back seats were filled, they were not allowed to fill empty seats in areas meant for white passengers. In 1955, Rosa Park a black passenger in a Montgomery bus refused to relinquish her seat to a white passenger, she was arrested and tried and the process sparked a boycott, which helped declare segregation in the public transport unconstitutional in 1956. This event marked the birth of modern civil rights movements and it is during this time that activists like martin Luther King juniors efforts helped bring an end to the racial segregations.
Most of the Jim Crow laws ended in the 20th century. The Supreme Court helped overturn most of the laws on constitutional grounds. For instance Kentucky law abolished residential segregation in in 1917, interstate transportation segregation abolished in 1946 .This and many other social segregation laws were challenged in the Supreme Court and consequently abolished. Events that occurred in the 1960s like the killing of the voting rights activists in Philadelphia, Mississippi and the attack of peaceful marchers to Montgomery helped pass legislations that allowed voters rights enabling blacks to participate in all federal, state and local elections.