For nearly 100 years following the end of the Civil War, African Americans in the United States, especially in the South, were held in perpetual second class status. More than just being treated as second class citizens, they were terrorized and denied even some of the most basic civil rights. The term given to the laws that legalized racial segregation in the south was Jim Crow.
According to Ferris State University’s Jim Crow Museum, Jim Crow was the name of fictional character created by Thomas Dartmouth Rice. He used blackface and imitated an exaggerated version of a slave. Eventually “Jim Crow” became the term applied to restrictive laws forced upon African Americans.
C. Vann Woodward’s work The Strange Career of Jim Crow has been hailed as one of the most important works on race relations in America. Martin Luther King Jr. called it, “the historical Bible of the civil rights movement.” Woodward begins discussing the period of Reconstruction and traces the “career” of Jim Crow through the 1970s. He reinforces the argument against the Lost Cause narrative.
The laws that appeared in order to restrict blacks were a direct result of the threat against white supremacy. Although his original edition was published in 1955, his argument is still credible today. The edition being reviewed here is his third, and he made it a point to correct any fallacies in his argument from previous editions. This book is worth the read for anyone who is interested in understanding Jim Crow and its impact on African Americans.
Woodward, C. Vann. The Strange Career of Jim Crow. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974.
*For more information on the Jim Crow Museum, please visit https://ferris.edu/jimcrow/origins.htm