Between the years of 1930 to 1959, Jim Crow laws and etiquette rules dominated the South and allowed some of the most horrific crimes and injustices against African Americans to occur, especially throughout those thirty years. Unfortunately, for the people devastated by these abhorrent laws justice comes often came too late and many more never received any justice. After the Civil War ravaged the country, the Southern states and people wanted to remind the recently freed slaves that they were not equal to their white counterparts.
During Reconstruction, most of the Southern states passed laws which llowed for the continued persecution and the atrocious treatment of African Americans. Even the laws themselves were given the racist name of Jim Crow, being named after a racial song from a minstrel show. These laws dictated the ways the African Americans must address “whites,” where they could live or work, the type of medical care they could receive, these offensive laws even gave stipulations on whom they could marry. The idea that the South could pass laws such as these should have been considered illegal by the United States government under the 14th Amendment.
However, in May 18th, 896, Jim Crow laws were solidified by the United States Supreme Court when it declared that “separate but equal” was considered constitutional. Jim Crow Laws remained in effect throughout much of the early 20th century, when they were finally challenged by the historic court case Brown vs. Board of Education. First, to fully comprehend the injustice of Jim Crow, one must evaluate the multitudes of legislation that passed that enabled Jim Crow to develop into full blown legal maltreatment of African Americans.
In the monumental Slaughterhouse Cases held in 1873, the Supreme Court failed to uphold federal laws, uch as the 14th Amendment. The first paragraph states, “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. ” Contrary to the direct wording that forbids states basic human rights to every citizen, the Court interpreted this to mean a person US citizenship, not their state citizenship.
With this ruling, the federal courts enabled the Southern states to pass laws that estricted a person’s fundamental human rights. Closely on the heels of this ruling, there were several cases brought to state courts on the legal segregation of transportation, such as the Louisville, New Orleans & Texas Railway vs. Mississippi, which reinforced that Mississippi could segregate railcars, even if they were interstate traveling, which had previously been considered illegal. Eventually, these cases morphed into the most famous case of Plessy vs.
Ferguson. In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled that if circumstances were “equal” they could be separate. Though these cases mainly dealt with segregation of blacks and hites, they laid the ground work for states to pass laws which were directly aimed at “keeping” African Americans in their place. One problem that Jim Crow laws caused for African Americans was the ability to receive medical care. This can be seen in the case of the preventable death of Juliette Derricotte and the infant mortality rate of nonwhite infants.
On a November night in 1931, the dean of Fisk University, Juliette Derricotte, was traveling from Nashville, Tennessee to Atlanta, Georgia. She and three students were on their way to her parents’ house when hey were struck by an elderly white man, which caused the car to overturn into a ditch. The man proceeded to get out of his vehicle and yell at the injured people and then drove away. Derricotte and the students were able to make it to nearby Hamilton Memorial Hospital in Dalton, Georgia, where they were turned away for being black. The hospital’s policy was not to admit blacks and they were told to find help elsewhere.
A white doctor treated the critically injured Derricotte in his office and sent her home to recuperate. One of the students tried to transport Derricotte to the hospital in Chattanooga, however, he passed away from her injuries before they could arrive. The Jim Crow laws of Mississippi stated “There shall be maintained by the governing authorities of every hospital maintained by the state for treatment of white and colored patients separate entrances for white and colored patients and visitors, and such entrances shall be used by the race only for which they are prepared. Though the law itself only called for hospitals to provide separate entrances, many of the hospitals that arose in urban Mississippi were strictly “white only” establishments. Mississippi was not the only southern state to segregate their ealth system both Louisiana and Alabama had passed laws which prevented African Americans from receiving proper health care. These health care restrictions inhibited the ability for African American women to receive prenatal care and many were forced to use midwives for birthing.
Midwives during the 1930’s were commonly used by white and black women, if births were issue free they went well. However, if problems arose, women would need medical care and many hospitals in the South denied many African American women the ability to obtain emergency care. Dr. Milton Quigless of Mississippi, ecounted such an occurrence. He told of a woman that had given birth but did not pass the placenta or afterbirth and developed septicemia. Even though he removed the infection the women had died.
Per a study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, just in evaluating infant mortality in 1930 Mississippi, the death rate for nonwhite infants was eighty deaths out of a thousand live births compared to the death of only fifty of white infants. If a person compares the infant mortality rate of the states that segregated medical facilities, there is generally higher death of nonwhites over white. Jim Crow also could control the area of town that African Americans could reside in.
The state of Louisiana passed a law that stated “Any person. ho shall rent any part of any such building to a negro person or a negro family when such building is already in whole or in part in occupancy by a white person or white family, or vice versa. ” Many Southern cities passed similar laws that kept whites and blacks in different parts of town. For African Americans to seek economic improvement by moving to the “better” part of town could be devastating, such was the case for William George. George had worked for Mr. Morgan for years and after such loyal service, Morgan wanted to sell his farm to George.
This farm was on the “white” side of town and Morgan’s sons had wanted it. George bought the farm and it ended in tragedy. A few months after living there, on a dark night, the George family woke up to the oldest daughter screaming the house was on fire. Within hours the George’s house was a pile of rubble and they also suffered the loss of their two, youngest children. Even though the white families of the neighborhood came to watch the blaze, none of them helped Mr. George put out the flames or rescue the children rapped inside.
There was no investigation on who started the fire, no justice for the children who were caught in that blaze. This tragic story will be repeated all throughout the South, many times the burnings occurred when a white person decided that a black family needed to be punished for some perceived grievance. House burning was not the only way African American families were disposed of either, thousands more were run off their lands or out of their homes with threats to themselves or their families. Poor business workings and illegal mortgages aided whites in confiscating land owned by African Americans.
Cornelius Speed’s grandfather was a victim of illegal mortgage. Speed’s grandfather owned 700 hundred acers in Florida, which he borrowed against to buy cars and luxury items. After the grandfather’s death, Speed’s father tried to pay off the debt on the land and overheard the lender saying that “That nigger, Cornelis, [is] out there waiting worry me. He thinks he’s going to get his daddy’s property, but hell, he’ll never get it as long as I’m alive. ” The lender help true to this promise refusing to sell the land to the Speed family, eventually selling to a plantation owner for less than land was worth.