Jim Crow laws

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The laws which enforce segregation do not presume the inferiority of a people; they assume an inherent equalness. It is the logic of the lawmakers that if a society does not erect artificial barriers between the people at every point of contact, the people might fraternize and give their attention to the genuine shared problems of the community.
—Lorraine Hansberry[1]
There is a separation of coloured people from white people in the United States. That separation is not a disease of coloured people. It is a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.
Albert Einstein, 1946[2]

The Jim Crow laws were state and local laws in the United States enacted between 1876 and 1965. They mandated de jure racial segregation in all public facilities, with a supposedly "separate but equal" status for black Americans, as well as imposing legal barriers on who private businesses were allowed to serve, including but by no means limited to requiring restaurants to designate themselves for one particular race,[3] prohibiting black-owned barber shops from serving white clients whether the whites wanted it or not,[4] requiring apartment buildings to designate themselves black or white,[5] or prohibiting interracial athletic events even if entirely financed and organized by a private party.[6] In reality, this led to treatment and accommodations that were usually inferior to those provided for white Americans, systematizing a number of economic, educational and social disadvantages. Jim Crow laws were particularly popular in the South, where southern hospitality was enjoyed by all colored folks who knew how to behave themselves, and avoided upsetting white folks by being uppity.


Some examples of Jim Crow laws are the segregation of public schools, public places, and public transportation, and the segregation of restrooms and restaurants for whites and blacks. The U.S. military was also segregated. These Jim Crow Laws were separate from the 1800-66 Black Codes, which had also restricted the civil rights and civil liberties of African Americans.

Segregation was officially ended in the US military with Executive Order 9981, which was signed by President Harry S. Truman in 1948. State-sponsored school segregation was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education. Generally, the remaining Jim Crow laws were overruled by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Separate but equal[edit]

Oh, America.

Jim Crow laws were generally not so crude as to deny rights, instead enforcing segregation. In theory, both races would have access to their own versions of the same amenities and services. Buses in Montgomery, Alabama, had separate sections for blacks and whites. The Rosa Parks incident occurred when a black woman, sitting in the "white section" of the bus, refused to give up her seat to a white man. She was legally allowed to travel on the bus, but was not sitting in the area assigned to blacks. The area assigned to blacks could be changed by the bus companies and drivers, so it wasn't uncommon for blacks to be removed from seats needed for white passengers. The laws, and the way in which they were enforced, made a mockery of the notion of equality.

Black schools received less funding than white schools,[7] and laws were enacted in the knowledge that they would disproportionately affect black citizens. One of the iconic images of this era is that of separate water fountains for blacks and whites.

Attempts to stall its destruction[edit]

Since the Southern Strategy and the Reagan era, desegregation of public schools, lead regulations, health insurance equity and poverty relief have slowed down and can be tied to the stagnation of black wages today.[8] The Affordable Care Act is attempting to address at least one of these concerns.[9]

Libertarian views[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Libertarianism

While libertarians, almost inherently, are opposed to government discrimination, such as Jim Crow laws,[10] their views on the remedy of the Civil Rights Act are mixed. Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination in public accommodations. Some — but not all — libertarians are opposed to the idea that a privately-owned business can be told by the government that they must serve everyone; according to these libertarians, this is in opposition to the idea of freedom of association for individuals (or corporations — same thing to them apparently).[11] Rand Paul has questioned Title II,[10][12] Peter Thiel has expressed opposition to both women's suffrage (the Nineteenth Amendment in the US) and "welfare beneficiaries"[13] (reasonably interpreted to mean minorities).[14]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. The Movement: Documentary of a Struggle for Equality by Lorraine Hansberry (1964) Simon and Schuster. Page 26.
  2. Einstein at Lincoln, Snopes
  3. Lawrence Otis Graham, Our Kind of People: Inside America's Black Upper Class. Harper Collins, 2009. p.335.
  4. Separate is Not Equal: Brown v. Board of Education, Smithsonian
  5. Examples of Jim Crow laws, Ferris State University
  6. Charles Martin. Benching Jim Crow: The Rise and Fall of the Color Line in Southern College Sports, 1890-1980. University of Illinois Press, 2010.
  7. Beginnings of Black Education, Virginia Historical Society
  8. What If Black America Were a Country?, The Atlantic
  9. Charts: The economic gap between blacks and whites hasn’t budged for 50 years, The Washington Post
  10. 10.0 10.1 Context Matters: A Better Libertarian Approach to Antidiscrimination Law by David E. Bernstein (June 16, 2010) Cato Unbound.
  11. Libertarianism and the Right to Discriminate by Robert A. Levy (March/April 2016) Cato Policy Report.
  12. Rand Paul's rewriting of his own remarks on the Civil Rights Act by Glenn Kessler (April 11, 2013) The Washington Post.
  13. The Education of a Libertarian by Peter Thiel (April 13, 2009) Cato Unbound.
  14. 11 questions to see if libertarians are hypocrites: Eleven questions that expose their contradictions and faulty logic by R.J. Eskow (Sep 12, 2013 12:19 PM EDT) Salon.