Jim Crow Laws
Jim Crow Laws began after the Civil War ended and African-Americans were given their rights and freedoms. These laws were only enforced in the southern states where people owned slaves to keep African-Americans from gaining any type of success. They began after the Civil War and were not ended until the 1960’s. In the Jim Crow law days it was illegal for a black man to touch a white women or it would be considered rape. In To Kill a Mockingbird Tom Robinson is convicted of raping Mayella Ewell even though he did not even touch her because a white man, Bob Ewell, said Tom beat her. In To Kill A Mockingbird Jim Crow laws are displayed by segregation, the differences in lifestyles, and the cause for the trial. Jim Crow laws actually developed from something that entertained white people rather than anything that had to do with a law. Jim Crow began as an act performed Thomas Rice “ ... a white minstrel performer, popularized the phrase “Jim Crow” in 1828 when he created a stage character based on a slave named Jim owned by a Mr. Crow” (Benson 829). This shows that, unlike popular belief, the Jim Crow laws were not always a set of laws, but a set of routines that entertained white people. Thomas Rice’s character influenced how people viewed a black person by “Mocking African Americans through his presentation, Rice blackened his face with burnt cork (“blackface”), donned a ragged costume, shuffled as he danced, and sang “ev’ry time I turn around I jump Jim Crow” (Benson 829). Thomas Rice helped shape how a generation viewed and thought about African-Americans. Thomas Rice started the stereotypical view of African-Americans “with his “Sambo” stereotype fully intact, no doubt perpetuated many of the most unfortunate, simplistic, and lasting negative images of African Americans.” (Genovers 176). Through his act, Thomas Rice started many of the sayings and racist acts that are still present today. “The moniker Jim Crow later became synonymous with the segregation laws” which began in the 1880’s and were in effect until the 1960’s (Benson 829). This illustrates the way white people turned a “funny” character into something worse than it already was. When Jim Crow transitioned into a set of laws it changed how African-Americans lived their lives. Jim Crow included certain etiquette that people were forced to follow or suffer the consequences. Even the smallest thing could turn into something that could get an African-American killed. For example, touching a white woman was “classified as rape” (Warren 341). This explains why Tom Robinson was convicted of rape even though he did not do anything. The jury thought Tom beat up Mayella when Bob Ewell was really setting him up to take the blame for his own actions. Another example of the etiquette is the way the races spoke to each other. White people thought they were too good for the African-Americans so “Whites did not use courtesy titles of respect when referring to blacks, for example Mr., Mrs., Miss., Sir, or Ma'am, instead, African Americans were called by their first names and were never allowed to call whites by their first names” (Warren 341). This behavior demonstrated how whites had a sense of entitlement just because their skin was a different color. Whites also thought they were the only ones who should be able to show love for one another because, “African Americans were not allowed to show public affection toward one another in public, especially kissing, because it offended whites” (Warren 341). The white people couldn’t even let African-Americans sit where they wanted because “ If an African American rode in a car driven by a white person, the African American sat in the back seat or the back of the truck” (Warren 341). This type of “law” led to the many movements in history like Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. These laws also kept African-Americans under oppression. With the creation of the NAACP and the determination of a race, African-Americans were able to fight Jim Crow laws. In 1909 African-Americans began this fight when, “The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), took the lead in combating Jim Crow laws”(Benson 831). African-Americans were tired of being oppressed and not able to do the same things that a white person was able to do so they created the NAACP. African-Americans were finally given a voice in the court because “It brought one lawsuit after another to the courts, disputing the constitutionality of Jim Crow” (Benson 831). After years of being cheated out of fair trials African-Americans were finally able to win many cases. In the beginning they won few cases, but “The turning point came in 1954 when the Supreme Court struck down public school segregation” (Benson 831). This victory changed the course of history, as it was the start of many victories for African-Americans that were to come. The NAACP fought tirelessly for the rights and freedoms of African-Americans. They were inspired to make a change in the world and knew the only way to do that was through hard work and determination. After years of fighting, the Jim Crow laws began to be repealed, creating a brighter future for African-Americans. Although they were finally given equal rights in the classroom, there was still more to do. After years of fighting things began to change. “By 1950, legal changes were coming in droves”(William 14). African-Americans were winning the fight against segregation and it was only a matter of time before all the laws were changed because “The final blows administered by the civil rights movement, whose boycotts, sit-ins, and lawsuits continued over the next two decades.” African Americans realized they were very close to victory and victory was within reach. African-Americans were finally free when, “The Jim Crow era came to a close with a series of landmark federal laws passed by Congress during the 1960s”(Benson 831). African-Americans were finally equal to their white counterparts and were now free to do what they wanted. With the final laws passed, African-Americans were finally free from oppression and were equal to everyone. The Jim Crow laws put African-Americans under oppression for many years and affected their everyday lives. This is represented in To Kill a Mockingbird by how unfairly Tom Robinson was treated just because of his skin color. These laws are illustrated throughout To Kill A Mockingbird by segregation, the differences in lifestyles between blacks and whites, and ultimately through the treatment of Tom Robinson and his trial. This was a very dark and rough time in American history, but it was a significant part of the African-American community’s struggle for true freedom.