The name Jim Crow Laws originated from a song called, Jump Jim Crow, where a white actor painted his body black and performed the song, along with a dance routine, acting as an intoxicated, obnoxious black man. Jim Crow Laws were formed to create separate but equal public facilities for blacks and whites in the South. Starting in 1857, with the landmark decision of Dred Scott vs. Sandford, the Supreme Court held that African-Americans were not allowed to be citizens of the United States. This prohibited colored people from being able to sue in federal courts. After the Civil War, in 1865, the southern states approved the Black Codes. These codes spelled out African Americans’ rights and responsibilities and forced plantation labor as well as infringed on their autonomy i.e. blacks prohibited from renting land, using insulting language, etc. These didn’t last long as, [they] were made illegal as a result of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution, (Brandl.)
Jim Crow Laws first appeared in the North, but in 1877, they were legislated in the South to separate blacks and whites. There were laws segregating schools, libraries, public toilets, buses, restaurants, train cars and even prisons with death as the punishment for violation. The landmark hearing of Plessy v. Ferguson gave higher support to segregation as the Supreme Court deemed separate but equal facilities constitutional. Over the course of the 1900s, at least [one thousand, one hundred and thirty-two] blacks were burned alive or lynched in the United States for violating Jim Crow Laws and for being black, (Softschools, 5).
The fall of Jim Crow Laws began in 1948, when Executive Order 9981 by Harry S. Truman desegregated the United States Army. Along with this, Truman pressed for the end of poll taxes, a fair voting process and eventually the end of Jim Crow Laws. After this, separate but equal was challenged by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Plessy v. Ferguson hearing was overturned by the decision of Brown v. Board of Education, and the iconic Rosa Parks refused to release her seat all of these contributions to the growth of the Civil Rights movement. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act helped, to enforce the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling and end segregation that was legally enforced, (Softschools, 14).
Jim Crow Laws are a key part of the history of police because the police are the enforcers, but police power has a wider scope than just enforcing laws. Police have the authority to regulate citizens’ lives. Police have a freedom that allows them the discretion to handle situations how they please in general and also when it comes to using their weapons for either public or officer safety. When you make segregation a permanent societal characteristic and set death as the punishment, that gives law enforcement the permission to choose how they will interpret and enforce punishment for the violation of these laws. Police brutality against African Americans occurs within bounds established by law. Just like segregation, police brutality is a problem continually plaguing America. The first step to ending police brutality is education. We must educate ourselves on things like structural and institutional racism and how they are able to slip into the cracks of the law. Once we educate ourselves, we can advocate for and support movements that raise awareness, criminal justice system reform, and start to push back and see a change.
Jim Crow Laws kept African Americans from being considered as equal and reaping the benefits of the societies they lived in. These laws put and kept power in the hands of whites, and contributed to the prolonged defamation of our character. People of color continue to face prejudices, even though there are laws in place that legally put an end to racial segregation. There are those that choose to believe this problem is nonexistent, but segregation will continue to exist unless we come together and stop ignoring the problem. Once we acknowledge the seriousness of this growing problem, we can work towards finally destroying the virus.