The Beginning of Segregation – History Essay
Segregation is a term that every American has heard and has their own definition of. What many American’s do not realize is that segregation is not just something that happened as soon as the end of the Civil War was over. This separation of blacks and whites took time and a lot of effort by white southerners to put in place. When Did Southern Segregation Begin takes a piece of history that many do not like to think about and analyzes it from many different angles. Each article in the book has a different view point.
C. Vann’s The Strange Career of Jim Crow says that the reason for segregation is the laws that were enforced during the late nineteenth century or “de jure.” The article talks of how the “relaxation of the opposition” (pg 53) is a major cause for the Democrats being able come back into power and the implement of the eventual segregation laws such as Jim Crow laws. It seemed like even though the blacks and whites separated themselves from each other, they were starting to learn to work together and to tolerate each other.
The excerpt also shows how blacks and whites learned to be civilized when they encountered each other. The division of the two races happens soon after the end of the Civil War. In churches and schools were probably some of the first places to be spilt. During the time, neither place was to be segregated by law. Both places became segregated by the choice of the public. This is an early example of how the blacks separated themselves from the Whites to start to own life as free people.
Vann Woodward also talks about the reactions of people in the late nineteenth century to the placement and enforcement of the Jim Crow laws. Of course the black communities were against any law restricting them from everyday rights and everyday convenience. Many whites also were not satisfied with the thought of Jim Crow Laws. The article quotes a Charleston editor saying, “We have no more need for a Jim Crow System this year than we had last year.”(49). This is just one example of people who saw no need for Jim Crow Laws.
Joel Williamson’s, The Separation of the Races, shows segregation being a social separation, or “de facto,” and claims that it started at the end of the Civil War. The withdrawal of blacks is not because of hatred for the white man, but was a need to leave their past behind them and move away from slavery and servitude. The excerpt shows that many people believe that “separation was also a way to avoiding interracial violence” (63). The withdrawal of blacks immediately following the Civil War gave whites the idea they had control over the situation. Even though blacks were not giving in, they were just looking for separation between them and the white man. Blacks started to push for equal rights in public areas. Whites started to withdrawal themselves to avoid mixing with blacks. This withdrawal became a push to have the color line clearly drawn and to have laws set in place to prevent mixing of the races.
Edward L. Ayers’s, The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction, shows how extreme the battle for a proper place to ride on the train was and how railroads were the starting place for segregation, since the railroad companies were trying to separate the races with no legal right. The trains were turned into the first major place of tension after the Civil War. The segregation on the railroad was just an issue for first class or lady’s car. This is where all the conflict started. During the late eighteen hundreds, many whites and rail road companies were sued over the placement of blacks on the train, and more importantly the first class car. Blacks learned what lines they could cross and not be in the wrong legally. So they pushed for equal accommodations.
Howard N. Rabinowitz’s, From Exclusion to Segregation: Southern Race Relations, 1865-1890, says segregation began toward the end of the nineteenth century and was caused by the blacks’ continual push for equal rights. So in turn, whites segregated the races by using laws to keep the blacks from mixing with whites. The color line slowly became very distinct and did not allow direct association with whites in social situations or any situation; they would be allowed to be involved in similar things just in a separate room or separate area. Many blacks just wanted to be treated fairly under the idea of the “separate but equal” law established by “Plessey vs. Ferguson.” Whites were not restricted by the law like the blacks were, so if a white man wanted to ride on a first class black car, he may. In turn, blacks just wanted the same restrictions on their cars and their property as the whites had on their cars against a black man.
Barbara Y. Welke’s, When All the Women Were White, and All the Blacks were Men: Gender, Class, Race, and the Road to Plessy, 1815-1914, says the segregation began as a perpetration of races and gender on the railroad. The excerpt implies that there are four different kinds of people; White women, White men, Black women, and Black men. The issue of the railroad centered on who could ride on the first class or Lady’s car, and how gender affected this. The main issue was whether it was going to be allowed for black women to be able to ride in the first class car. There were many court cases brought against whites by blacks in response to being removed or threatened to leave a first class car. Finally, in the court case Logwood vs. Memphis & Charleston R.R., the judge ruled that “if a railroad company furnished for white ladies a car with special privileges of seclusion and other comforts, the same must be substantially furnished for colored ladies”(140). This ruling gave the railroad law to separate the races but with equal accommodations.
In the final excerpt, Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow by Leon F. Litwack, he talks of how southern segregation started when the new generation of blacks would not stay in “their place.” The excerpt talks about how the new generation of blacks did not respect the old ways of the South. The new generation of blacks questioned the lines that separated them from white southerners. The increasing numbers of blacks who would not stay in “their place” alerted the white community and helped push for the urgent need of laws to restrict their movement and advancement in society. These laws made segregation a common practice of life in the South. Society continued to grow more, and more blacks started to work and associate with whites in places like factories, libraries, and laundromats. So segregation was something whites thought they needed everywhere. The work place became a completely segregated area. The only times mixing of the races would take place was only under emergency conditions, during cleanings, and to have a repair man fix a problem. Any place where a black man could be on equal footing with a white man was segregated as quickly as possible. The black man was then offered similar but unequal facilities.
This book sites many causes for segregation. There are similar views, like such as Woodward, Litwack, and Rabinowitz’s believe that segregation started by the emplacement of the Jim Crow laws. Their view of why the laws were put in place is different: Rabinowitz says more based on an unclear color line, compared to Woodward’s argument of the relaxation of support for blacks, and Litwack’s states the blacks would not stay in their place. These both contrast William’s argument that segregation was a social divide that was finally clarified with the implication of laws. Then both Ayers and Welke argue over how segregation came out of the railroad.
The excerpt that was most convincing to me was Woodward’s article. He gave the reader a complete overview of the whole time period before Jim Crow and up to the strict enforcement of segregation that we think of today. Both sides of the argument are explained and easily understood. His main argument for segregations is the lack of opposition was very convincing and well explained. He shows how the dissolve of the opposition was on all fronts from Northern liberalism to the decisions in the Supreme Court. The Northern liberalism slowly backed down and the Supreme Court ruled on many cases in favor of segregation. Also how he shows how the affairs of the world impact issues of race relations here on the home front. The issue of the Pacific and Caribbean gave a “bloody shirt” also to the Democrats. This evened the field between the Republicans and Democrats. All the issues that he says leads up to segregation are clearly defined and are also explained in great detail so the reader is able to understand what is going on.
These excerpts gave a brief look into the making of segregation. They all showed court cases and people’s testimonies about what helped to shape the ground of what would become the new south. The unfortunate enforcement of Jim Crow laws led to years of racial division and tension.