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Foundations of Racial Discrimination: From Slavery to Jim Crow Artemus Ward Dept. of Political Science Northern Illinois University

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Presentation on theme: "Foundations of Racial Discrimination: From Slavery to Jim Crow Artemus Ward Dept. of Political Science Northern Illinois University"— Presentation transcript:

1 Foundations of Racial Discrimination: From Slavery to Jim Crow Artemus Ward Dept. of Political Science Northern Illinois University polisci/faculty/ward/ Preparing Cotton for the Gin at Smith’s Plantation, Port Royal, South Carolina.

2 Foundations In this lecture we will discuss the history and aftermath of slavery and the landmark racial discrimination cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. We begin with a discussion of Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) and the question of whether slaves, or former slaves, could be citizens of the United States. We then turn to the 14 th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, the Disputed Hayes-Tilden election of 1876, the end of Reconstruction, and the rise of Jim Crow. Ultimately we see how the Court’s narrow interpretation of the 14 th Amendment in various cases such as Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) constitutionalized racial discrimination.

3 Slavery People of African ancestry have been considered an inferior race since the first slaves were brought to Jamestown in They could be bought, sold, and used as personal property. In 1772, a British court decision referred to slavery as “odious” and called for the release of James Somerset, and American slave traveling in Britain with his American owner. This decision served as a catalyst among southern aristocrats to unite with the northern colonies to eventually call for independence. Although some states extended various civil and political rights to emancipated slaves and their descendants, the U.S. Constitution did not recognize black Americans as full citizens. Consider the various “slave clauses” in the Constitution: –Article I, § 2: “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.” –Article I, § 8: “The Congress shall have power… To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions…” –Article I, § 9: “The migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year 1808, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each person.” –Article IV, § 2: “No person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.

4 Scott v. Sandford (1857) Chief Justice Roger B. Taney ( ), delivered the 7-2 opinion of the Court. He described the prevailing view of blacks when the Constitution was written: “They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold, and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever a profit could be made by it. This opinion was at that time fixed and universal in the civilized portion of the white race." Scott, as a slave, could not be a citizen and therefore could not sue in the federal courts. “We think they [people of African ancestry] are... not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word "citizens" in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States...." The Court’s ruling undermined its legitimacy, damaged Taney’s reputation forever, and helped set the stage for the Civil War.

5 The Post-Civil War Amendments After the union victory in the Civil War, the Constitution was amended to end slavery (13 th Amendment), confer full national citizenship on black Americans (14 th Amendment), and guarantee voting rights (15 th Amendment). Specifically, the 14 th Amendment said: –“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; –nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; –Nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Congress moved with dispatch to give force to the new amendments. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 over President Andrew Johnson’s veto. It guaranteed blacks the right to purchase, lease, and use real property. The Supreme Court upheld the law, ruling that the 13 th Amendment’s enforcement section gave Congress the power not only to outlaw slavery but also to legislate against the “badges and incidents of slavery.” Indeed, much of the federal housing regulation on fair housing is based on this authority.

6 Reconstruction ( ) For much of the Reconstruction era, from , the federal government assumed political control of the former states of the confederacy. Voters in the south elected more than 600 African-American state legislators and 16 members of Congress including the first two (and only two) African American to serve as United States Senators: Blanche K. Bruce and Hiram Revels, both of Mississippi. Because blacks in South Carolina vastly outnumbered whites, the newly-enfranchised voters were able to send so many African American representatives to the state assembly that they outnumbered white representatives. Many were able legislators who worked to rewrite the state constitution and pass laws ensuring aid to public education, universal male franchise, and civil rights for all. Senator Blanche Bruce Senator Hiram Revels

7 The Supreme Court Weighs In But the Supreme Court did not always act with the same level of zeal. Although the justices supported the claims of the newly emancipated blacks in some cases, they did not construe the new amendments broadly, nor did they enthusiastically support new legislation designed to enforce them… In the Slaughterhouse Cases (1873) the Court interpreted the 14 th Amendment’s privileges and immunities clause quite narrowly. A broader view might have provided opportunities for women and blacks to bring cases based on this clause to the Court. The disputed Hayes-Tilden presidential election of 1876, in which an electoral commission composed of members of the Court and Congress decided the outcome, resulted in the end of Reconstruction. The Union Army withdrew from southern states and the old South regained power. They enacted discriminatory policies to segregate their societies. In United States v. Harris (1883) and the Civil Rights Cases (1883) the Court nullified major provisions of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 and the Civil Rights Act of 1875 for attempting to prevent discriminatory actions by private individuals and institutions. The Court ruled that only public discrimination could be reached by the 13 th, 14 th, and 15 th Amendments. As a result, the federal government withdrew from civil rights enforcement. It was clear that the battle for legal equality of the races was far from over. Indeed, the federal government did not pass another civil rights bill until 1957…

8 Jim Crow Origin The term Jim Crow is believed to have originated around 1830 when a white, minstrel show performer, Thomas “Daddy” Rice, blackened his face with charcoal paste or burnt cork and danced a ridiculous jig while singing the lyrics to the song, “Jump Jim Crow.” While traveling in the south, Rice created this character after seeing either a disabled, elderly back man or young black boy dancing and singing a song ending with these chorus words: –“Weel about and turn about and do jis so, Eb’ry time I weel about I jump Jim Crow.” Some historians believe that a Mr. Crow owned a slave who inspired Rice’s act—thus the reason for the Jim Crow term in the lyrics. In any case, Rice incorporated the skit into his minstrel act, and by the 1850s the “Jim Crow” character had become a standard part of the minstrel show scene in America.

9 Jim Crow Laws Denying black men the right to vote through intimidation and violence was a first step in taking away their civil rights. Beginning in the 1890s southern states enacted literacy tests, poll taxes, elaborate registration systems, and eventually white only democratic party primaries to exclude black voters. In Mississippi, fewer than 9,000 of 147,000 voting age African-Americans were registered after In Louisiana, where more than 130,000 black voters had been registered in 1896, the number plummeted to 1,342 by On the local level, most southern towns and municipalities passed strict vagrancy laws to control the influx of black migrants and homeless people who poured into these urban communities in the years after the Civil War. In Mississippi, for example, whites passed the notorious “Pig Law” of 1876, designed to control vagrant blacks at loose in the community. This law made stealing a pig an act of grand larceny subject to punishment of up to five years in prison. Within two years, the number of convicts in the state penitentiary increased from under three hundred people to over one thousand. It was this law in Mississippi that turned the convict lease system into a profitable business, whereby convicts were leased to contractors who sub-leased them to planters, railroads, levee contractors, and timber jobbers. Jim Crow laws only spread… Consider some examples: –“Any white woman who shall suffer or permit herself to be got with child by a negro or mulatto…shall be sentenced to the penitentiary for not less than eighteen months.” Maryland 1924 –“No colored barber shall serve as a barber to white women or girls.” Atlanta, Georgia, 1926

10 Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) By a 7-1 vote, the Court upheld a Louisiana law which segregated railway cars on the basis of race. Writing for the majority, Justice Henry Brown said, “The object of the [14 th ] amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law, but in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political equality, or a commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either.” “We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff’s argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.” In dissent, Justice John Marshall Harlan said: “Our Constitution is colorblind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law.”

11 Supreme Court After Plessy In response, the legislatures of the South passed segregation laws affecting court-rooms, jails and prisons, restaurants, hotels, bars, trains and train stations, buses, streetcars, elevators, lunch counters, swimming pools, beaches, baseball fields, fishing holes, telephone booths, prizefights, pool halls, factories, public toilets, hospitals, cemeteries, schools, parks, water fountains, libraries, recreational facilities, and almost every other public and commercial facility. These laws, coupled with segregated private lives, inevitably resulted in two separate societies. Furthermore, the Court applied Plessy to sustain segregation that did not purport to be “separate but equal” as well as a number of other instances of racial discrimination: Cumming v. Richmond County Board of Education (1899)—the Court refused to interfere with a county school system that provided high school education for whites but not African-Americans. Berea College v. Kentucky (1908)—the Court sustained a statute requiring private colleges to exclude African-Americans. Newberry v. United States (1921)—the Court concluded that party primary elections were private affairs, unknown to the framers and therefore beyond the reach of the Constitution. The decision constitutionalized the “white primary” in the one-party Democratic South. Gong Lum v. Rice (1927)—the Court affirmed the right of Mississippi to segregate Chinese-Americans from public schools set up for whites.

12 Conclusion Just as slavery was implicitly written into the U.S. Constitution, the Court explicitly validated it through Dred Scott. Despite the passage of the post-Civil War Amendments, the Court constitutionalized racial discrimination through Plessy and similar cases. In the next lecture, we examine how this legacy affected Negro League baseball.


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