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To set the stage for the civil rights movement, you must first understand the environment of segregation in the United States in the first half of the 20th century. What was life like in Jim Crow America? Cut and paste this information into a new page in your Unit 8 Online ISN. You (and your partner, if you have one) are African Americans who have lived through the era of Jim Crow in America. Using the links provided in this activity, respond to the “oral history questions” in first person.


Right after the Civil War, the 14th Amendment was ratified. What did the 14th Amendment provide for African Americans? What does “due process” and “equal protection of the laws” mean? 14th LINK
The fourteenth amendment was ratified by the states after the Civil War in 1668 to guarantee black rights. Any person born in the United States was now an American citizen, with right to an attourney,freedom of speech, and all other constitutional rights. For African Americans, it granted citizenship to those who were once enslaved. The amendment also tells us that the government cannot take away our life, liberty or property without due process of law. Due process of law ensures us that we cannot be denied of our life, liberty, or property without proper legal processes. It sure is a positive step for us- so far different than the past government practices on this subject. The fourteenth amendment also prohibits the states to deny “any person within its jurisdiction from the equal protection of the laws.” The states are now prohibited from denying me my constitutional rights, and my protection under the law will be equal to the other citizens of the state. Now we can only pray that the government will fulfill its promises.

Unfortunately, your equal rights were challenged by the Supreme Court in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson. What do you remember about the facts, decision, and impact of this case? Plessy LINK
So here's what I remember about that Plessy v. Ferguson court case. Homer Plessy, a man around 30 years old, was put in jail for sitting in the "white car" of the East Louisiana Railroad. Although he had a light complexion, he was still required to sit in the "colored car." This whole event came along because of the Seperate Car Act, a law segregating traincars. A black civil rights group wanted to challenge this law, sio Plessy purposesly sat in the "white car." Plessy's lawyer defended him saying the act violated both the 13th and 14th amendments. The supreme court ruled the Louisiana law constitutional, saying : "A statute which implies merely a legal distinction between the white and colored races -- has no tendency to destroy the legal equality of the two races." Because of this descision, tensions between blacks and whites and blacks and the government grew.

The laws developed in the South became known as Jim Crow laws. Who was this Jim Crow fellow? Did he write the laws?Jim Crow LINK
Jim Crow was not a real person at all. Jim crow was a character in a play, a black man, acted by a white man wearing dark makeup. He was an exaggerated, highly stereotypical character that was extremely offensive to the white population. The term grew to become a name for laws or actions that oppressed blacks. More plays like these continued, giving the public the view that blacks are lazy, stupid, and do not deserve integration.

What are some specific examples of the Jim Crow laws from southern states? How did the laws affect you? Jim Crow Laws LINK 1 / Jim Crow Laws LINK 2 / Jim Crow Laws LINK 3
There were many laws that restricted my civil rights in society. For me, I’m a respectable barber, but I couldn’t serve all customers. It was against Jim Crow laws for me to cut the hair of any white women or girl. Oh and I had a little boy. The poor boy went over and asked this little white girl to play a game of cards with him. Me and the other little girl’s mother separated them two so quick, they aint never saw it coming. My poor boy was so confused, and I just said, “Honey, you just broke a Crow Law.” Also, my boy aint get as good of an education. As the Missouri Jim Crow Law from 1929 says Separate free schools shall be established for the education of children of African descent; and it shall be unlawful for any colored child to attend any white school, or any white child to attend a colored school.” One day, I was out with my baby and we were going to visit auntie. We ate at a restaurant, of course not at the white restaurant, that would be against the law. Then we went to go catch the train where we would be seating in the “black” section. We walked across the street but my boy was in a hurry and didn’t see the car. He nearly got run over! I hugged him so tight and kissed him on the top of his head. Then, this white man came running up to us saying, “You stop that right now, it’s against the law to show affection in public!” He called me a couple of names and he wouldn’t dare call me Ms. or Mrs. for that was against the law. He ended his rampage saying he let me off easy. I so wanted to laugh at him or curse at him…but…that would be against the law. Hah! Separate but equal? Sure…

What did Jim Crow America look like in the 1900s? What are some images that can help explain the realities of the time?Jim Crow Images LINK 1 / Jim Crow Images LINK 2


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Segregated Movie Theaters, Protests, Segregated Drinking Fountains


What happened in the Scottsboro Case? How did it make you feel as an African American in the South? Scottsboro LINK
The Scottsboro case in 1931 Alabama really proved how mistreated we, as a black community, are. Apparently, nine black boys and a couple of them whites were riding a train to find work when a fight boroke out. Those whites were kicked off the train and reported the incident to the stationmaster. Stationmaster stopped that train and was about to charge them with assult till he realized two woemn were hiding on that train. So then, the nine Black boys were falsely accused with raping two white women. Those women testified against them 'cause she didnt want them to find out bout their sexual activity with some of them whites. Trial took place in Scottsboro, Alabama and that darned all-white jury sentenced all but the 12 years old, to death. This case makes me so enraged with a fury I can't explain. The unfairness of it all! I can barely talk about it..so I aint gunna, the case speaks for itself.



What do some of your friends and family say about life in Jim Crow America? (listen to one or two) Audio History LINK 1


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