Jim Crow was the name of the racial caste system which operated primarily, but not exclusively in southern and border states, between 1877 and the mid-1960s. News-paper and magazine writers routinely referred to Blacks as niggers, coons, and darkies; and worse, their articles
reinforced anti-Black stereotypes. Even children's games portrayed Blacks as inferior beings. All major societal institutions reflected and supported the oppression of Blacks.
The Jim Crow system was undergirded by the following beliefs or rationalizations: Whites were superior to Blacks in all important ways, including but not limited to intelligence, morality, and civilized behavior. Sexual relations between Blacks and Whites would produce a mongrel race which would destroy America. Treating Blacks as equals would encourage interracial sexual unions. Any activity which suggested social equality encouraged interracial sexual relations. If necessary, violence must be used to keep Blacks both controlled and supressed.
Blacks were denied the right to vote by poll taxes (fees charged to ppor Blacks), White primaries (only Democrats could vote; only Whites could be Democrats), and literacy tests ("Name all the Vice Presidents and Supreme Court Justices througout America's history").
Jim Crow states passed statutes severely regulating social interactions between the races. Jim Crow signs were placed above water fountains, door entrances and
exits, and in front of public facilities. There were separate hospitals for Blacks and Whites, separate prisons, separate public and private schools, separate churches, separate cemeteries, separate public restrooms, separate seating on buses and trains, and separate public accommodations. In most instances, the Black facilities were grossly inferior -- generally, older, less-well-kept. In other cases, there were no Black facilities -- no Colored public restroom, no public beach, no place to sit or eat. Each state created a plethora of demeaning laws to keep Black people segregated from Whites and under White domination.
Jim Crow laws touched every aspect of everyday life. For example, in 1935, Oklahoma prohibited Blacks and Whites from boating together. Boating implied social equality. In 1905, Georgia established separate parks for Blacks and Whites. In 1930, Birmingham, Alabama, made it illegal for Blacks and Whites to play checkers or dominoes together.
The Jim Crow laws and system of etiquette were under-girded by violence, real and threatened. Blacks who violated Jim Crow norms, for example, drinking from the White water fountain or trying to vote, risked their
homes, their jobs, even their lives. Whites could physically beat Blacks with impunity. Blacks had little legal recourse against these assaults. The most extreme forms of Jim Crow violence were lynchings.
Lynchings were public, often sadistic, murders carried out by mobs. Between 1882, when the first reliable data were collected, and 1968, when lynchings had become rare, there were 4,730 known lynchings, including 3,440
Black men and women. Most of the victims of Lynch-Law were hanged or shot, but some were burned at the stake, castrated, beaten with clubs, or dismembered. Lynching was used as an intimidation tool to keep Blacks, in this case the newly-freedmen, "in their places." The great majority of lynchings occurred in southern and border states, where the resentment against Blacks ran deepest.
Many Whites claimed that although lynchings were distasteful, they were necessary supplements to the criminal justice system because Blacks were prone to violent crimes, especially the rapes of White women. Approximately 1/3 of all the victims were falsely accused. Under Jim Crow any and all sexual inter-actions between Black men and White women was illegal, illicit, socially repugnant, and within the Jim Crow definition of rape.
Most Blacks were lynched for demanding civil rights, violating Jim Crow etiquette or laws, or in the aftermath of race riots. Lynchers were seldomly arrested, and if arrested, rarely convicted. At least 1/2 of the lynchings were carried out with police officers participating, and in 9 out of10 of the others, officers condoned the mob action.
Lynchings served many purposes. They were cheap entertainment, served as a rallying point for Whites, functioned as an ego-massage for low-income and low-status Whites, were a method of defending White domination and helped stop or retard the fledgling social equality movement. Their immediate goal was to drive out -- through death or expulsion -- all Blacks; the larger goal was to maintain, at all costs, White supremacy.
George Fredrickson, a historian, stated it this way: Lynching represented...a way of using fear and terror to check 'dangerous' tendencies in a black community considered to be ineffectively regimented or supervised.