Browsing "Tales of Jim Crow"

Another Casualty of the War

It is written that “despite the changes which the catastrophe of 1865 made inevitable, the distinctive culture of the region was never destroyed.” Both races had to return to living together in the same land, but social relations deteriorated with the political machinations of the carpetbaggers and the Republican Party’s Union League. For simple political opportunism and lasting hegemony over the defeated South, the latter taught the black man to hate his lifelong white neighbor and vote for the Northern party which impoverished the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Another Casualty of the War

“Since the Civil War, there has been a decline in what the ante-bellum traveler Frederick Law Olmsted called “the close habitation and association between black and white.” Immediately after the war the two races separated in churches, and for the cultural give and take of the plantation was substituted a dual school system which sealed off the children of one race from another.

Gradually it became impossible for a white person to teach in a Negro school without losing caste. When the courts forced the attendance of Negroes in white schools, no genuine interracial fraternity developed. No longer did the two races have what William Faulkner calls “the same parties: the identical music from identical instruments, crude fiddles and guitars, now in the big house with candles and silk dresses and champagne, now in the dirt-floored cabins with smoking pine knots and calico and water sweetened with molasses.”

The whites have been able to implement a growing aversion to intimate contact with the blacks through the use of labor-saving devices and through the spread of progressive notions concerning the dignity of labor. Despite Supreme Court decisions, immutable social custom makes for increased residential segregation, especially in the newer sections of the cities.

One of the most persistent beliefs about the South is that the Negro is in a constant state of revolt against the social pattern of the section. Despite a vast literature to the contrary, the facts of history refute this assumption.

As a slave the black man never attempted general insurrection and did not run away often. “The slaves,” says a historian of the Confederacy, Robert Cotterill, “supported the Confederacy (albeit somewhat involuntarily).” It is now proved that outside compulsions rather than inner ambitions prompted the political insubordinations of Reconstruction. Their artificial character is proved by the fact that they were not accompanied by much social insubordinations and by the fact that they disappeared as soon as the outside compulsions were removed.

Indicative of the willingness of the rank and file blacks to accept the status quo are the words of a conservative demagogue who knew the Negro well. “If the election of the governor of South Carolina were left “entirely to the Negro vote,” declared Cole L. Blease in 1913, “I would receive without trouble 75 to 90 percent.”

(The Everlasting South, Francis Butler Simkins, LSU Press, 1963, excerpts pp. 48-49)

New York Slaveholding Brought Comfort and Prestige

New York is properly referred to as a former slave State — slaveholding there did not end until the late 1820’s, though the children of slaves remained in bondage for many years after. Rather than lose their investment, New Yorkers sold their chattel to plantations in the South before the deadline. Additionally, the small free-black population which remained in New York found themselves proscribed by Jim Crow laws which erected a minimum property ownership in order to vote, which effectively disenfranchised them.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

New York Slaveholding Brought Comfort and Prestige

“New York was slow in drawing white settlers until after mid [18th] century, and the shortage of labor led to a considerable use of slaves; indeed it is possible that in the early Dutch days it was slave labor that enabled the colony to survive. Most of the first slaves were not from Africa but were re-imported from Curacao in the Dutch West Indies.

It was a profitable system: in the 1640’s it cost only a little more to buy a slave than to pay a free worker’s wage for a year. After the English took control of New Netherland in 1664, a brisk and highly profitable trade in skilled slaves was carried on. Most slaveholders in the province were flourishing small farmers or small artisans who, in the absence of an adequate supply of free labor, needed moderately skilled help, and were able to pay the rising prices for slaves.

A partial census of 1755 showed a widely diffused slave population, most owners having only one or two slaves, only seven New Yorkers owning ten or more. Among the largest lots held were those of the elder Lewis Morris with 66 slaves on his large estate and the first Frederick Philipse, an affluent landowner, with about 40.

Such men could work gangs of slaves on their manors, but slaves were also sought by other wealthy men for the comfort and prestige a substantial staff of domestic servants would bring. William Smith, for example, was reputed to keep a domestic staff of 12 or more to run his New York City household, and other leading citizens travelled with Negro footmen.

From the first the competition of black labor was resented by whites. Competition in the labor market was intensified by the slave owners’ widespread practice of putting out their slaves for hire, under-cutting white laborers who were paid twice the slaves’ wages.

Slave controls, reflecting persistent nervousness in the white population, were quite rigid. Aside from private punishments that could be administered by masters, such public controls were meant to put sharp limits on the temptations slaves would face. After 1702, flogging was prescribed if three slaves gathered together on their own time . . . nor could they engage in trade without their master’s consent.”

(America at 1750, a Social Portrait, Richard Hofstadter, Vintage Books, 1973, excerpt, pp. 99-101)

Wade Hampton Teaches Racial Tolerance

Astutely recognizing the new political reality in postwar South Carolina, Wade Hampton hoped to build a harmonious political relationship between the two races based upon mutual trust and affection. With the Radical rejection of Andrew Johnson’s moderate Southern policy toward the conquered South, no chance of racial harmony in the South was possible. While the Radicals and carpetbaggers looted the South and incited race war, discrimination and Jim Crow laws continued in the North.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Wade Hampton Teaches Racial Tolerance

“Hampton told of an incident before the war when he and his family were in Philadelphia. At the train station he purchased tickets, including two for the black servants travelling with them.

The ticket agent informed Hampton that his servants would not be allowed in the same car, as, Pennsylvanians “did not like to ride with Negroes.” Hampton protested. He had been required to pay full price for their tickets, “and one of them is the nurse of my children.” The agent still refused.

The slave master from South Carolina was out of patience with Philadelphia prejudice. “I told him that I had paid their fare,” recounted Hampton, “that I thought them good enough to ride with me, and therefore quite good enough to ride with his fellow citizens, and that they should get into my car. So I brought them in and kept them there.”

(Wade Hampton, Confederate Warrior, Conservative Statesman, Walter Brian Cisco, Brassey’s, excerpt, pp. 185-186)

“Jim Crow” Sections Up North

When discussing segregation and Jim Crow laws in America one immediately thinks of the South, though it was truly a Northern institution that gradually made its way South. New York did not eliminate slavery officially until the late 1820’s, though the children of slaves remained in bondage until reaching age 21. That State also habitually restricted the black vote through property-holding qualifications that effectively disenfranchised them.  The State of Ohio outright refused black settlers, and the new Republican party of 1856 was not antislavery — it wanted to ban black people from the western territories and restrict slavery to the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

“Jim Crow” Sections Up North

“One of the strangest things about the career of Jim Crow was that the system was born in the North and reached an advanced age before moving South . . . and one might consider Northern conditions with profit. By 1830 slavery was virtually abolished by one means or another throughout the North, with only about 3500 Negroes remaining in bondage in the nominally free States.

The Northern free Negro [had his or her freedom] circumscribed in many ways . . . the Northern Negro was made painfully aware that he lived in a society dedicated to the doctrine of white supremacy and Negro inferiority. The major political parties, whatever their positions on slavery, vied with each other on this doctrine, and extremely few politicians of importance dared question them.

Their [Northern] constituencies firmly believed that the Negroes were incapable of being assimilated politically, socially, or physically into white society. They made sure in numerous ways that the Negro understood his “place” and that he was severely confined to it. One of these ways was segregation, and with the backing of legal and extra-legal codes, the system permeated all aspects of Negro life in the free States by 1860.

Leon Litwack, in his authoritative account, “North of Slavery,” describes the system in full development. “In virtually every phase of existence,” he writes, “Negroes found themselves systematically separated from whites.

They were either excluded from railway cars, omnibuses, stagecoaches, and steamboats or assigned to special “Jim Crow” sections; they sat, when permitted, in secluded and remote corners of theaters and lecture halls; they could not enter most hotels, restaurants and resorts, except as servants; they prayed in “Negro pews” in the white churches, and if partaking of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, they waited until the whites had been served the bread and wine. Moreover, they were often educated in segregated schools, punished in segregated prisons, nursed in segregated hospitals, and buried in segregated cemeteries.”

Whites of South Boston boasted in 1847 that “not a single colored family” lived among them. Boston had her “Nigger Hill” and her “New Guinea,” Cincinnati her “Little Africa,” and New York and Philadelphia their comparable ghettoes – for which Richmond, Charleston, New Orleans, and St. Louis had no counterparts.”

(The Strange Career of Jim Crow, C. Vann Woodward, Oxford University Press, 1966 (original 1955), excerpts, pp. 17-19)