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)