"It shall be unlawful for a negro and white person to play together or in company with each other at any game of pool or billiards." This selection is an example of a Jim Crow law that was effective in the state of Alabama from the late 19th century to the early 20th century.
Jim Crow was the name of a minstrel routine beginning in 1828 by Thomas Dartmouth ("Daddy") Rice. The name became a derogatory term for African Americans and a name for any state laws that established different rules for blacks and whites.
Jim Crow laws started to come into effect, primarily but not exclusively in southern states, after the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and lasted until the beginning of the civil rights movement in the 1950s. They functioned to keep black and white people separated, particularly in social settings and social institutions such as marriage.
Examples of Jim Crow Laws
These laws worked to enforce segregation amongst the races, which led to civil rights actions by individuals such as Ida B. Wells, and ultimately to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s led by people like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr..
Examples of laws that caused these extreme tensions in the country included the following:
- Marriage - "All marriages between a white person and a negro, or between a white person and a person of negro descent to the fourth generation inclusive, are hereby forever prohibited." (Florida law)
- Marriage - "All marriages of white persons with Negroes, Mulattos, Mongolians, or Malaya hereafter contracted in the State of Wyoming are and shall be illegal and void." (Wyoming law)
- Hospitalization - "The Board of Control shall see that proper and distinct apartments are arranged for said patients [in a mental hospital], so that in no cases shall Negroes and white persons be together." (Georgia law)
- Nursing - "No person or corporation shall require any white female nurse to nurse in wards or rooms or hospitals, either public or private, where negro men are placed." (Alabama law)
- Barbering - "No colored person shall serve as a barber [to] white women or girls." (Georgia law)
- Toilets - "Every employer of white or negro males shall provide for such white or negro males reasonably accessible and separate toilet facilities." (Alabama law)
- Buses - "All passenger stations in this state operated by any motor transportation company shall have separate waiting rooms or space and separate ticket windows for the white and colored races." (Alabama law)
- Restaurants - "It shall be unlawful to conduct a restaurant or other place for the serving of food in the city, at which white and colored people are served in the same room, unless such white and colored persons are effectually separated by a solid partition extending from the floor upward to a distance of seven feet or higher, and unless a separate entrance from the street is provided for each compartment." (Alabama law)
- Beer and Wine - "All persons licensed to conduct the business of selling beer or wine...shall serve either white people exclusively or colored people exclusively and shall not sell to two races within the same room at any time." (Georgia law)
- Amateur Baseball - "It shall be unlawful for any amateur white baseball team to play baseball on any vacant lot or baseball diamond within two blocks of a playground devoted to the Negro race, and it shall be unlawful for any amateur colored baseball team to play baseball in any vacant lot or baseball diamond within two blocks of any playground devoted to the white race." (Georgia law)
- Burial - "The officer in charge shall not bury, or allow to be buried, any colored persons upon ground set apart or used for the burial of white persons." (Georgia law)
- Libraries - "The state librarian is directed to fit up and maintain a separate place for the use of the colored people who may come to the library for the purpose of reading books or periodicals." (North Carolina law)
- Teaching - "Any instructor who shall teach in any school, college or institution where members of the white and colored races are received and enrolled as pupils for instruction shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof, shall be fined..." (Oklahoma law)
- Schools - "Separate rooms [shall] be provided for the teaching of pupils of African descent, and [when] said rooms are provided, such pupils may not be admitted to the school rooms occupied and used by pupils of Caucasian or other descent." (New Mexico law)
- Schools - "[The County Board of Education] shall provide schools of two kinds; those for white children and those for colored children." (Texas law)
- Prison - "The warden shall see that the white convicts shall have separate apartments for both eating and sleeping from the negro convicts." (Mississippi law)
From schools and hospitals to prisons and pool halls, the Jim Crow laws sought to keep white and black people separate in various domains.
The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow Laws
After Reconstruction, in the name of healing the rift between North and South, the federal government did not enforce the protection of African Americans. So, in the former Confederacy and neighboring states, efforts to legally re-establish the white supremacy of the slavery days were overlooked.
These Jim Crow laws often disguised their cruelty and racism by claiming to provide "separate but equal" facilities to both white and black people. However, this was a falsehood. The black schools, libraries, etc. were often in poorer condition than the white facilities.
Eventually, these laws were struck down. In 1948, President Truman urged Congress to enforce fair voting and hiring practices, and end Jim Crow transportation rules between states. Thanks in no small part to the work of NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall, in 1954 the Supreme court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965, abolishing all Jim Crow laws.