17 thoughts on “Geography of the South – Blog Exercise #2

  1. While looking at the bodies is unpleasant, the truly disgusting part of the lynching photograph is the crew in the near left. Apparently my preconceived notions of lynch mobs were off – they lacked well-dressed young white women. Reminders of how widespread racism is in our history make me even more frightened about our present and future. The photograph of the Rex Theatre for colored people made me wonder about the people of Leland, Mississippi during the first half of the 20th century and today. (My research led me to learn that Jim Henson is from Leland!) The town grew up around a plantation and nearby railway in the 1870’s and 80’s. Today, 70% of the town’s approximately 4,500 residents are black. I wonder about the Rex Theatre – if it was ever a site for violence or vandalism, why it closed. Unlike in the case of the Rex Theatre, there is information available online about the Civil Rights Congress. The CRC formed as a result of a three-party merger after World War II, and represents well the brief marriage between “red” and black civil rights groups. Over the course of a decade the CRC pushed/campaigned/publicized civil rights cases on behalf of both African Americans and labor movement radicals – a.k.a. communists. The Cold War “Red Scare” at home tore the two movements apart. Joining the ranks of “things left out of my American history classes” is the 1951 and subsequent “We Charge Genocide” petitions to the UN on behalf of black Americans, first presented by celebrity Paul Robeson and CRC leader William Patterson. (The 1951 petition went essentially unreported in the US but was widely recognized in Europe.) I came across the following http://wechargegenocide.org/ and wanted to share. This is a 63 year movement and counting. Racial profiling, police brutality, the criminalization of “street” drug use, “homeland security” and the militarization of the police, combined with the privatization of prisons, make me question exactly how far we have come. What if political correctness and capitalism have only forced people to, at least publically, bite their tongues and unclench their fists? I am impatient. My mother repeatedly emphasizes to me how far we have come from the days of lynching and separate, un-equal facilities. I want to believe her. I am frightened by the persistence of racism, ethnocentrism, chauvinism, and etcetera. At the core of hatred is fear. Fear and love motivate us. Self-preservation and love of our own (families, friends) creates fears for survival and happiness, and fear of whoever might infringe upon them. This is so basic, so animal…and we need to evolve. At this point it is sheer madness to point a finger at any impoverished population, what power do they have? What power have they ever had? We must not only start pointing our fingers in the right directions in terms of who is responsible for the state of the world today, we must also then quickly stop pointing and bring both hands to the work of solving the real challenges we face.

    • Nice response Sarah…I think the issues of fearing others and who we designate as “others” is at the core of what is going on in the US right now and it’s derived in part from this poisonous history of race that has come down from slavery.

  2. Jim Crow is a racist and discriminatory law that segregates African Americans from white people in the United States. This system was between 1877-1964. As it is shown in the pictures, African Americans were not allowed to use or have access to many facilities. In other words, they a segregated from the population. They have been treated as a second class citizens or maybe lower than that. For example, in trains, they sit in the back carts, and they are not allowed to muddle with other people.

    How Jim Crow laws began? During the reconstruction years 1865-1877 when civil war protection is giving for freedmen in the United States. Democratic groups were never agreed with this protection deal .however they did not have the control in that time. After they ( redeemer a democratic group http://education-portal.com/academy/lesson/redeemers-in-reconstruction-history-lesson-quiz.html#lesson ) regained power gradually in the south, they created such a law to segregate African Americans from the whole population. After reconstruction, federal government regained power and had a new policy “Negro disfranchisement, social, educational and employment discrimination, and peonage” http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1979/2/79.02.04.x.html .
    From what I read, I believe that the redeemers, who were in the south were wealthy businessmen, farmers, and merchants. So, I believe that their reactions against the freedom and protection the African Americans gained during the reconstruction is because of their lost of their properties. Farmers rely on slaves in that time as well as merchants by selling and buying slaves. So they are eager to keep African Americans away from political positions.

    The period of violence by white people against African Americans is called “The American Dark Ages” by the historian Rayford Langan. Lynching of black people and race riots is very recognized in that time. Many African Americans were hanged and shot till death in public. Many white people believe that blacks can be controlled only by fears, and this is the way to control them. Many reports are on the newspapers. However, a lot of more were not reported because the rural district in the south is very big and the news papers could not reach it.

    The Delta of the Mississippi attracted a lot of African Americans because of job opportunities as farmers. Or maybe because it is a place where they can run away to from Jim Crow law and lynching. Washington county in Mississippi when it was under Leroy Percy ( Lawyer, plantation businessman http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/biography/flood-leroy/ ) leadership who supported African Americans in that time. He supported their education and gave the jobs opportunities such as policemen, mailman, and also justice of peace. From what I read, some believe that he did support African Americans to keep them in town so he can use them as farmers, especially when he had a bid business in farming in cottons and many other products. He controlled plantations exceeding 20,000 acres.

  3. Reblogged this on Neverending Wanderlust and commented:
    Unfortunately, the United States has quite a dark history when it comes to racism, which was only aggravated by the Civil War and Reconstruction. In the period immediately after the Civil War, it was common for African-Americans to be elected to many positions, including Congress and State Houses. Once the period of Reconstruction ended, however, the white Southern elite took power again. They re-implemented their traditionalist political system, which sought above all to maintain the status quo. In order to do this, the white elites made sure to pit the poor white population against the African-American population. The rhetoric included telling poor whites that they were simply better than African-Americans, or that the African-American population posed a serious threat to the well-being of the poor whites. This rhetoric was further reinforced by the Jim Crow laws, which legally enforced racial segregation.

    The images of the Imperial Laundry Company and Rex Theatre both show how Jim Crow laws often played out. Businesses would frequently only cater to whites or to blacks, but not both. Because these were private facilities, they were not required to meet the standard of “separate but equal” established in Plessy v. Ferguson. Businesses that catered only to African-Americans were often separate, but not equal to the ones that catered to white patrons. Some businesses, however, did cater to both whites and blacks. When this was the case, there was usually some sort of physical division between the two groups. A common way to keep them separate was to have one door for whites in the front of the business, and another door for blacks on the side or in the back of the building, far from the street and sidewalk.

    In the public realm (schools, transportation, government buildings, etc.), facilities for whites and blacks were supposed to be “separate but equal”. In the implementation of this policy, though, the separate facilities were almost never equal. For example, white schools would often have the newest textbooks and classroom supplies, while black schools would have old textbooks and supplies that the white schools did not want anymore. The image of the two water fountains gives a good idea of the real-world implementation of “separate but equal”. Clearly, both water fountains serve the purpose of allowing someone to get a drink of water. However, one would imagine that there would just be two of the same water fountains with different signs over them, so they would be equal. But that clearly was not the case. The water fountain for whites is nicer, with the pipes underneath it covered. It is also higher up to make it easier to drink from. The “colored” water fountain, however, is lower to the ground and has exposed pipes under it. They simply are not equal.

    The physical legacy of segregation, like the separate water fountains, can still pose challenges to this day. For example, when cities restore old government buildings, they can frequently uncover old labels for “white” and “colored” facilities, which must be dealt with carefully in the modern post-Jim Crow world.

    • Good comment Matthew…the legacy of Jim Crow is alive and well in the South and goes much deeper than trying to figure out what to do with old segregated facilities signs…

  4. Established in 1876, the Jim Crow laws were the pinnacle example of racial division in the US between the late-1800s to mid-1900s. Various entities like businesses, schools, hospitals, sports, were required to separate blacks from whites, and under the guise of “separate but equal”, the majority of states, as well as various cities, in the US were now allowed to isolate one race from another and impose punishments upon citizens found to be breaking the regulations written in the laws. Before their creation, three Reconstruction amendments had been created in regards to the betterment of conditions for African Americans and help prevent future discrimination.
    The 13th amendment, established and ratified in 1865, officially abolished slavery. The 14th amendment, proposed in 1866 and ratified in 1868, involved the Equal Protection Clause, which required all states to provide equal protection to all citizens that lived within its jurisdiction (except, at the time, women). This amendment was established in response to Black Codes that already existed, which restricted blacks from suing, giving evidence, or bearing witness in a court of law, and also allowed harsher punishment for black offenders. The 15th amendment, proposed in 1869 and ratified in 1870, prohibited voter discrimination on the foundation of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” However, after the Compromise of 1877, the military withdrew from the South and ended the Reconstruction era, allowing increased suppression of blacks.

    This was only to be exacerbated by the establishment of Jim Crow laws. Pre-Jim Crow, blacks had actually had a prominence in government and were allowed certain positions of power. This, obviously, was not allowed after the 1870s. Under the laws, high poll taxes were established, as well as literacy tests and inaccessible voting areas, all in the hopes of making voting all the more difficult for blacks, and succeeding in doing so. And of course, grandfather clauses allowed illiterate poor whites to vote, regardless of Jim Crow laws. The laws obviously violated the 14th and 15th amendments, but were allowed due to federal court decisions such as Plessy vs. Ferguson in 1896. Wilson, the first Southern president of the post-Civil War era, instituted federal segregation in areas such as the armed forces and job applicants, and was supported by his highly Southern cabinet, which only gave power to further discrimination. Private sectors were worse than those that were public and Plessy vs. Ferguson supported this. Segregation was supposedly “equal” but this was not the case, as seen in the above photos. White facilities were significantly nicer than black facilities. This includes the bathrooms of restaurants, restaurants themselves, neighborhoods, etc.

    The punishment for those found to be in violation of the laws were severe. Lynchings were common. It’s a hideous fact about this time in the US. Initially they occurred over issues such as sharecropping settlements or criminal accusations, but later, supporters of civil rights and denouncers of white supremacists were often prey to the mass mobs. Thousands were murdered and included members of multiple different minorities, and included not just African Americas, but also Italians, Native Americans, Hispanics, and Chinese.

    Segregation and racism in today’s society are still common discussions and we must look into our past to remind us of how far we’ve come, how much we still have to accomplish, and help prevent future discriminations against those who are not strong enough to fight the majority.

      • Honestly, I feel like people are ignoring it. People push and push and try to act like racism was so long ago and not relevant today when, in fact, this was very recent in relative terms and still very prominent today, especially in the media. I feel like improvement is possible, but only when the majority of the country acknowledges that it’s still an issue and wrong and black versus white is not just a fact of life. Change doesn’t happen overnight. And we’ve all learned old habits die hard. People have different skin color, yes. And with that, different cultures and backgrounds come along with it. However, just because someone has a different skin color and different heritage than you, doesn’t make them inherently, deep-down different than you. We’re all human. We all have the same goals of being loved, being successful, being healthy, and being happy. We all have the same kind of blood. We all have struggles. People in today’s society still fail to acknowledge that, even if they believe they do. Discussions of race, when they happen, should center around what unifies us, not what separates us. Don’t say “a black man shot a white man”, say “a man shot a man”. Because that’s all we really are. We’re all just humans at the end of it all.

  5. This series of images demonstrates the attitude of the people in the South during the time of the Jim Crow laws. The photo of the water fountains is an example of de jure racial segregation, it was mandated by law with the concept of separate but equal. The image of the lynching is an example of de facto racial segregation, the common attitude of many white people of the time was the inferiority of African American people and the accepted process of such lynchings.
    The image of the two water fountains, one for white and one for colored are an example of separate but equal, they are two different water fountains in very close proximity with each other (separate) the one for white however does seem to be more complex and better cared for than the one for colored (equal?). The image is very representative of the idea of separate but equal, very often the African American population was regulated to inferior versions of the products the white population enjoyed.
    The photo of the Imperial Laundry Co. who catered only for white people, and the Rex Theatre who catered only to colored people are also prime examples of racial segregation. Jim Crowe laws mandated the separation of all public facilities, including facilities that were economical, educational and social. In all aspects of daily life the Jim Crowe laws served to reenforce the idea of racial superiority for the white elites, and inferiority if the African American population. They were constant reminders designed to perpetuate the notion that they were separate peoples, not entitled to the same rights in terms of schools, housing, job discrimination, economic possibilities, social opportunities or access to public facilities such as transportation, restrooms or restaurants.
    Regarding the photo from the lynching there are a few stand out features. The two people who were lynched are African American, and the mob of people surrounding them are exclusively white. There is a man posing and pointing, reminiscent of a hunting photo. There are well dressed men in ties and hats holding hands and smiling with women in dresses and styled hair, under the same tree that holds the lynching victims, in tattered and bloody clothing. There even appear to be children in the crowd, unaffected by what they see. The term lynching refers to trial and judgement and punishment by a group of people outside of the legal system. A transgression is perceived, real or imaginary, and a mob of people carries out the sentence, often by hanging, but covers any form of violence against the individual. Lynchings are often found in times of social or economic tension, and the post Civil War freedom of African Americans was a time of both. In about eighty six years, nearly 5,000 people were lynched and accounted for, of this number 3,500 were African American. The frequency of lynchings in the United States started dropping in the 1930s, were nearly eradicated in the 1950s, but didn’t cease until the 1960s. The African American Civil Rights movement began in 1954 and ended in 1968. The goals were to end racial segregation and discrimination (largely in the South) and saw the end of the oppressive Jim Crowe laws.

  6. The images are obviously repulsing, but when put into context with the time era it makes me think of theories on morality and ethics. What individuals see as right or wrong changes depending on the cultural context, place, and time; which is clearly demonstrated here. This brings the question to mind, ‘did people actually believe that such acts AREN’T wrong?’ If we’re all part of the human race, how can such racism exist? In grade school I was taught about segregation and civil rights in a historical sense- as if it doesn’t exist today. Racism and segregation is still very prevalent in modern times, but is disguised under a new face.
    An article posted online by The Guardian in August 2014 illustrates how accurate this reality is. Within it they mention “the rate of police killings of black Americans is nearly the same as the rate of lynchings in the early decades of the 20th century.” And that according to the FBI “About twice a week, or every three or four days, an African American has been killed by a white police officer in the seven years ending in 2012…” Of course this being deaths deemed justifiable according to the article(1). Even more alarming is the results from a 2002 study in the American Journal of Public Health that found death rates due to legal intervention were more than 3 times higher for blacks than whites between 1988-1997 (2). I’m just as sick and tired of hearing about this in the media as everyone else, but the fact is these stories reveal a greater issue. The media is portraying black people as being thugs and gangbangers allowing these stereotypes to permeate the minds of Americans(3). It seem as if the white race has it ingrained in their mind that they are superior to blacks. When thinking back to high school again, I remember the cafeteria room and how obviously and unintentionally segregated it was. The black people set in a particular area, as did the Hispanics and the whites. You might see some intermingling between the groups, but this was usually due to being a member of a similar sports team or something along those lines. Even in the classrooms-my ‘pre-ap’ classes were predominantly white and had a very different mood compared to my non pre-ap counterparts. Teachers in the lower level courses spent more time disciplining and keeping the students on track. The lower standards the students were held to perpetuated their lack of desire to learn or to care to learn. Our education system will need to make drastic changes if we want to see change in society.

    1 Wilkerson, Isabel. “Mike Brown’s Shooting and Jim Crow Lynchings Have Too Much in Common. It’s Time for America to Own up.” The Guardian. N.p., 25 Aug. 2014. Web.

    2 Sikora, Andrew G., and Michael Mulvihill. “Trends in Mortality Due to Legal Intervention in the United States, 1979 Through 1997.” American Journal of Public Health 92.5 (2002): 841-43. Web.

    3 Taylor, April V. “More Black People Killed by Police than Were Lynched during Jim Crow.” San Francisco Bay View. N.p., 5 Oct. 2014. Web.

  7. These imagines sum up a troubling time in American history, the Jim Crow era. The Jim Crow era is best defined from the end of Reconstruction to the passage of the Civil Rights Bill in 1965. With the withdrawal of Federal occupation forces from the South as part of the “Compromise of 1877”(elected Rutherford B. Hayes as POTUS in exchange for the withdrawal of troops), the Southern Elite wanted to reclaim their spot in the social and political hierarchy. During reconstruction, free Slaves were allowed to vote, which placed many Black representatives in numerous former slave states, so disenfranchising Blacks was the first on the agenda. It is important to note that there were groups that prior to and during Reconstruction, such as Klu Klux Klan, The White League, and the Red Shirts, that served to act as agents of fear in attempt to limit Black voter turnout. The scare tactics of these groups consisted of mounted demonstrations, violence at the polling place, civil unrest, and even assassinations. When Grant steps in to prevent some violence, but it serves only as a galvanizing factor for the Southern Elite to move towards the creation of Jim Crow laws.
    The underlying factor behind Jim Crow Laws was to maintain the Southern Elite’s class structure. The traditionalist political structure of the South was designed to maintain the status quo, and so after Reconstruction, Jim Crow laws were made just for that. Jim Crow laws were rationalized amongst Whites by introducing a narrative that even served to turn poor White against southern Blacks. This dialogue that “all” black men are out to steal the White man’s “woman”, flew into the face of the Southern cultural Patriarchal construct. Women in this period were considered property, and could become “tainted” with the interaction with Blacks. The movie we watched in class shows this notion very clearly. The punishment many times for Blacks interacting with Southern White women usually resulted in lynchings. Many of the records of lynchings show a disproportionate number Black men, with little to no female lynching, but other minorities such as Catholics and immigrants do dot the records.
    The court case Plessy versus Ferguson created the notion of separate, but equal. This gave the power for South states to cut funding to Black institutions, but also created duplicate institutions to segregate Blacks from Whites. Many of the images above highlight the outcomes from this landmark court case. Private businesses in the South were allowed to create a separate space for Blacks, or to even outright refuse service to those who were not white. It can be seen in the image of the water fountain how different accommodations/ funding was made for each group. On the left, the White water fountains is larger, more likely cooled , and possibly even filtered, while on the right, the water fountain for the Blacks is small, dirty, warm, and poorly maintained. If that does not symbolize Jim Crow laws in one simple non-violent image, I do not know what would.

  8. I am trying to understand something that is not trivial today. The Imperial Laundry Co had a sign encouraging black people in Birmingham, Alabama to not use their facilities. Now looking at it with a business perspective. Why would exclude about 40 percent sales from your bottom line? I have never heard of a company in the business of making money leaving 40 cents on the dollar. However, Imperial Laundry Co. thought that it was a great idea. I am bewildered as well to the fact that black people would even work there considering how they treated their respective communities. This blog exercise is different for me, because for some reason I am taking it personal. I appreciate the fact that my professor allows us to express our ideas and suggestions on a weekly basis. Jim Crow laws not only oppressed black people, but all races in the South. The business decision to cut potentially 40 percent of profit from your business is simply mind boggling to me. I have worked in retail sales for over 20 years. We were told to treat every customer with respect and take their money with a smile of course. I know back in Birmingham the poor white people may have felt like their livelihood was threatened. But if a southern town is 40 percent African American and 10 percent Asian and 50 percent White. Your workforce should be as such. Advertising back then in and today is still an effective tool. That billboard in Birmingham really painted the picture of what Jim Crow laws looked like. Now in Leland Mississippi, black people had their own theater. It was called Rex Theater. It was another painted picture of Jim Crow laws. I am sure that there were black people who were satisfied with the fact that no white people came. But a business decision to exclude 50 percent of your profits was prevalent in black communities as well. Maybe white people in Leland, Mississippi felt strongly against mingling with their black neighbors. But Jim Crow laws forced the separation up to some parts of the South until the 1970s. The Rex Theater sign was dated back to 1937. A period enveloped in the Great Migration. I am sure the revenue fell for the theater since their main customers were African Americans who were moving to the North, Northeast, and the West to start new lives. The Jim Crow laws were a force to reckon with during those eras.
    Rex Theater. (2014, September 29). Retrieved from Cinema Treasures: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/14558
    Vachon, J. (2013, August 9). White Wash 1951. Retrieved from Shorpy: http://www.shorpy.com/node/15805

    • Good research James, but remember if the white laundry had been open to all, then at the time they would probably have lost most of their white customers, at that time it was a good business decision to be segregated…the Rex theatre on the other hand, probably had no choice…

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