Jim Crow Laws and Racism in USA

Table of Content

Racism was an issue in this country, and it continues to negatively affect minorities in the U.S. However, to first understand how racism led to slavery, it is important to look at the various historical events that led to its arrival. Books like White Man’s Burden, Trouble in Mind, and Arc of Justice all answer how race made America. To being with White Man’s Burden deals with racial relations during the 1600s and 1700s, when the U.S. was not yet an independent nation. Trouble in Mind focuses on the period, roughly from the 1800s to the 1910s and examines racial violence in the South after slavery was abolished. Arc of Justice continues where Trouble in Mind stops, the book follows the career trajectory of one man as he deals with racism in Detroit. Crucial concepts to understand how race made America, is the evolution of race during the 1600s and 1700s, the aftermath of the end of slavery in the 1860s and the response to Jim Crow laws, and the opportunities that came with the migration of the north in the late 1800s/early 1900s.

The first concept to understand how race made America, is how race evolved during the 1600s and 1700s. The book, The White Man’s Burden by Winthrop Jordan, is about the history of racism in the United States in the colonial` era. The book starts with Englishmen encountering the first different looking man, Africans. When the Englishmen could not come up with a reason for their differences between Africans, they turned towards religion. Jordan states that “slavery was tinged by the spirit of religious differences” (Jordan, 464). This shows that the Englishmen could not figure out a reasonable explanation for the color differences and therefore decided that religion was the only difference. The rise of slavery started because of the differences in color and religion and Jordan informs the readers that the Englishmen felt that Negroes qualified as slaves and that “slaves were infidels or heathens” (Jordan, 470). In contrast, Negroes were less of a threat to the Englishmen at first. When colonizing America, the Englishmen first dealt with the Native Americans. “It became common practice to ship Indian slaves to the West Indies where they could be exchanged for slaves who has no compatriots lurking on the outskirts of English settlement” (Jordan, 669). Basically, in the 1600s Native Americans were first introduced to slavery and racism. Then it wasn’t until the 1700s where the Negroes comprised one-third of the population in the south. Due to a large number of black slaves in the south, there was a large fear of interracial relationships. As a result, the state of Virginia passed laws with fines for interracial relationships. This wasn’t the only law that was passed during the 1700s for the correction of black behavior. Jordan states that when Negroes were in the wrong, “their bodies were sometimes hanged in chains, or the severed head impaled upon a pole in some public place as a gruesome reminder to all passers-by that black hands must never be raised against white” (Jordan, 819). This proves that as laws got stricter violence against Negroes increased and white men began to watch their every move.

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The second concept to recognize when understanding how race made America would be the aftermath of the end of slavery in the 1860s and the response to Jim Crow laws. Trouble in Mind by Leon Litwack takes readers through the years of 1860 and documents the responses to the introduction of Jim Crows laws. Litwack also takes the readers through the lives of African Americans and how they had to submit to the power of Southern whites. After slavery ended, the first-born black youth had initial hopes and dreams, but all aspirations soon diminished once the blacks realized “the extraordinary power of white men and women wielded over black lives…in all phases of daily life” (Litwack 333). A black youth recalls that “the only thing you would be thinking of was that they were the ones that had everything” (Litwack, 333). This indicated that although slavery had ended white men and women maintained their dominance and “any deviation from white expectations invited instant and often violent reprisals” (Litwack, 342). Blacks knew that there were dangers in aspiring and whites could not stand it if black children got an education or started working. Overall, Litwack explained that “white people never liked to see Negroes get a little success” (Litwack, 154). The start of the New South not only brought more violence and discriminations, but it also brought Jim Crow laws that the Negroes had to abide by. Litwack informs the readers of a younger teenager named, Albon Holsey, who first came to understand the racial differences. Holsey was aware of the differences and he knew that he could never become President of the United States because there were laws that prohibited him from doing so, “he knew that he could never enter the front doors of white homes, and he knew that he could only ride on the back seat of the electric car and in the Jim Crow car on the train” (Litwack, 529). Overall, with the arrival of the New South and the thoroughness of Jim Crow laws, the White Southerners segregated races based on laws and enforced customs in every situation where a black or white person might come into contact.

The third concept to recognize when understanding how race made America would be the opportunities that came with the migration of the north in the late 1800s/early 1900s. Arc of Justice by Kevin Boyle, looks at segregation and racism in Detroit. This book allows readers to understand how racism existed in a variety of forms in the North, through housing, job opportunities, and medical care. Many southern blacks began sending their children to the north during the 1900s in hopes that they will get more opportunities. Negroes were given opportunities for a variety of job opportunities. For example, Boyle revolves the book around a man named Ossian Sweet who allows readers to understand what life was like for a black man living in the north. Boyle states that what “had drawn Ossian to Detroit was the promise of opportunity, the chance for something better” (Boyle, 105). One of the many opportunities that children of slaves received was schooling. However, the black higher education system only allowed a few black students to join their students and they had to be in the “Talented Tenth.” The talented tenth constituted of scholars, scientists, professionals, and poets. And by graduating from prestigious black colleges like Howard, Lincoln, and Fiske black graduates will have several opportunities open to them. In the beginning, they had a hard time coming up quickly because of the segregation that still existed but they could eventually open up their own practice or business where blacks were allowed to. After getting a decent education, blacks could also own their house. However, buying a house was not always easy because blacks had to look for homes within areas that blacks could live in. For example, “white landlords wouldn’t show black tenants’ apartments outside the ghetto” (Boyle, 9). Overall, black newcomers were given several opportunities that they wouldn’t have had in the South, but these opportunities always came with restrictions.

Ultimately, race made America in a variety of ways. First, the start of racism and slavery occurred in the 1600s with the Englishmen discovering the first black man. Then the 1700s gave rise to large amounts of enslaved black people in the south. The late 1800s brought the end of slavery and the rise of Jim Crow laws which shaped how segregation started. Lastly, the migration enslaved children brought many opportunities to the black youth, though, these opportunities came with conditions. Overall, these three readings show how racism began, ended, and continued/continues to exist in our country today.

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Jim Crow Laws and Racism in USA. (2021, Oct 28). Retrieved from


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