Monday, November 18, 2013

Jim Crow Laws
Making a Way Out of No Way

Attached is a list of the various Jim Crow laws in response to PBS The African Amercian Experience: Many Rivers to Cross
Episode 4, Making a Way Out of No Way (1897-1940)

Jim Crow laws were established to force segregation. Business owners and public places were ordered to keep groups separated and most states had laws preventing interracial marriage. Jim Crow was said to be a black character in minstrel shows.

At the height of the Miss Black America contests, I was asked by one of my white high school classmates why black folks separated themselves from the main stream. Why did we need our own beauty contests, newspapers, magazines, TV shows, etc.? I told her we were not included and had to make our own. In other words, making a way out of no way. I asked her to bring a magazine from home and show me how many pictures were in the magazine of people who looked like me. I should have told her to point out stories about black folks. She never brought the magazine and we never spoke about the subject again. This was in the early 1970s.

Barbers: No colored barber shall serve as a barber [to] white women or girls. Georgia

The Blind: The board of trustees shall...maintain a separate building...on separate ground for the admission, care, instruction, and support of all blind persons of the colored or black race. Louisiana

Burial: The officer in charge shall not bury, or allow to be buried, any colored persons upon ground set apart or used for the burial of white persons. Georgia

Buses: All passenger stations in this state operated by any motor transportation company shall have separate waiting rooms or space and separate ticket windows for the white and colored races. Alabama

Child Custody: It shall be unlawful for any parent, relative, or other white person in this State, having the control or custody of any white child, by right of guardianship, natural or acquired, or otherwise, to dispose of, give or surrender such white child permanently into the custody, control, maintenance, or support, of a negro. South Carolina

Circus Tickets: All circuses, shows, and tent exhibitions, to which the attendance of...more than one race is invited or expected to attend shall provide for the convenience of its patrons not less than two ticket offices with individual ticket sellers, and not less than two entrances to the said performance, with individual ticket takers and receivers, and in the case of outside or tent performances, the said ticket offices shall not be less than twenty-five (25) feet apart. Louisiana

Cohabitation: Any negro man and white woman, or any white man and negro woman, who are not married to each other, who shall habitually live in and occupy in the nighttime the same room shall each be punished by imprisonment not exceeding twelve (12) months, or by fine not exceeding five hundred ($500.00) dollars. Florida

Education: Separate schools shall be maintained for the children of the white and colored races. Mississippi

Fishing, Boating, and Bathing: The [Conservation] Commission shall have the right to make segregation of the white and colored races as to the exercise of rights of fishing, boating and bathing. Oklahoma

Hospital Entrances: 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. Mississippi

Housing: Any person...who 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 when the building is in occupancy by a negro person or negro family, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of not less than twenty-five ($25.00) nor more than one hundred ($100.00) dollars or be imprisoned not less than 10, or more than 60 days, or both such fine and imprisonment in the discretion of the court. Louisiana

Intermarriage: The marriage of a white person with a negro or mulatto or person who shall have one-eighth or more of negro blood, shall be unlawful and void. Mississippi

Juvenile Delinquents: There shall be separate buildings, not nearer than one fourth mile to each other, one for white boys and one for negro boys. White boys and negro boys shall not, in any manner, be associated together or worked together. Florida

Libraries: The state librarian is directed to fit up and maintain a separate place for the use of the colored people who may come to the library for the purpose of reading books or periodicals. North Carolina

Lunch Counters: No persons, firms, or corporations, who or which furnish meals to passengers at station restaurants or station eating houses, in times limited by common carriers of said passengers, shall furnish said meals to white and colored passengers in the same room, or at the same table, or at the same counter. South Carolina

Mental Hospitals: The Board of Control shall see that proper and distinct apartments are arranged for said patients, so that in no case shall Negroes and white persons be together. Georgia

Militia: The white and colored militia shall be separately enrolled, and shall never be compelled to serve in the same organization.No organization of colored troops shall be permitted where white troops are available, and while white permitted to be organized, colored troops shall be under the command of white officers. North Carolina

Mining: The baths and lockers for the negroes shall be separate from the white race, but may be in the same building. Oklahoma

Nurses: No person or corporation shall require any white female nurse to nurse in wards or rooms in hospitals, either public or private, in which negro men are placed. Alabama

Pool and Billiard Rooms: It shall be unlawful for a negro and white person to play together or in company with each other at any game of pool or billiards. Alabama

Parks: It shall be unlawful for colored people to frequent any park owned or maintained by the city for the benefit, use and enjoyment of white persons...and unlawful for any white person to frequent any park owned or maintained by the city for the use and benefit of colored persons. Georgia

Prisons: The warden shall see that the white convicts shall have separate apartments for both eating and sleeping from the negro convicts. Mississippi

Railroads: The conductor of each passenger train is authorized and required to assign each passenger to the car or the division of the car, when it is divided by a partition, designated for the race to which such passenger belongs. Alabama

Reform Schools: The children of white and colored races committed to the houses of reform shall be kept entirely separate from each other. Kentucky

Restaurants: It shall be unlawful to conduct a restaurant or other place for the serving of food in the city, at which white and colored people are served in the same room, unless such white and colored persons are effectually separated by a solid partition extending from the floor upward to a distance of seven feet or higher, and unless a separate entrance from the street is provided for each compartment. Alabama

Teaching: Any instructor who shall teach in any school, college or institution where members of the white and colored race are received and enrolled as pupils for instruction shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof, shall be fined in any sum not less than ten dollars ($10.00) nor more than fifty dollars ($50.00) for each offense. Oklahoma

Theaters: Every person...operating...any public hall, theater, opera house, motion picture show or any place of public entertainment or public assemblage which is attended by both white and colored persons, shall separate the white race and the colored race and shall set apart and designate...certain seats therein to be occupied by white persons and a portion thereof , or certain seats therein, to be occupied by colored persons. Virginia

Telephone Booths: The Corporation Commission is hereby vested with power and authority to require telephone maintain separate booths for white and colored patrons when there is a demand for such separate booths. That the Corporation Commission shall determine the necessity for said separate booths only upon complaint of the people in the town and vicinity to be served after due hearing as now provided by law in other complaints filed with the Corporation Commission. Oklahoma

Textbooks: Books shall not be interchangeable between the white and colored schools, but shall continue to be used by the race first using them. North Carolina

Toilet Facilities, Male: Every employer of white or negro males shall provide for such white or negro males reasonably accessible and separate toilet facilities. Alabama

Wine and Beer: All persons licensed to conduct the business of selling beer or wine...shall serve either white people exclusively or colored people exclusively and shall not sell to the two races within the same room at any time. Georgia

The African Americans Many Rivers to Cross Blogging Circle

Source: Examples of Jim Crow Laws
Images courtesy of Wikipedia.


  1. SMDH is all I can say LindeRe. Thanks for sharing

  2. An excellent presentation of such hateful times and behavior. Your response to your high school classmate also shows wisdom on your part at the time. I hope it helped to make her aware of many things she hadn't previously noticed or considered.

    1. I hope she benefited from our exchanges, I did.

  3. Linda
    I have been asked the exact same question as to why African American needed their own magazine, etc., but it was in the early 80's by someone I worked with. I pretty much gave here the same answer. I can recall those white only signs, colored enter in the rear of the department store signs, they bring back so many memories as a child in Louisiana. Totally enjoyed your story on Jim Crow Laws.

    1. Lela, I remember visits to a segregated doctor's office for ear infections, etc., but don't remember the signs. We had our separate entry. I remember going back after integration. I went to the door we used on previous visits and my mother grabbed my hand, told me we were going thru another door. I heard something different in my mother's voice, don't know what it was but even as a child, I knew a change had arrived.

    2. I remember this too, and also that black people had their own waiting room or at least sat in their own part of a common waiting room. I also very much remember blacks being buried in a separate and poorly maintained part of Brookhaven’s cemeteries, and that their gravestones were either very small or non-existent (the funeral home’s markers would be all that they had). The Jews had their own cemetery, but I don’t know if they did this to avoid being treated like blacks.

    3. Such questions show how easy it is to be oblivious when you're a member of the ruling race.

  4. Whew, reading through some of the Jim Crow laws on the list makes me cringe.

  5. It's not easy reading when you think about how tough this was to live through.

    1. "It's not easy reading when you think about how tough this was to live through."

      You can understand such things better than I, but you have been the partial inspiration for a post about how I remember things to have been from my point of view as a white teenager, and I would love to know what you think of it. You can do me no greater favor than to share your perceptions with me. In writing today’s post, I got out old annuals in search of photos of the first black kids to come to BHS (I couldn’t find any), and this got me to wondering if all-black schools had such things as school rings, school annuals, and alumni get-togethers. I just really don’t have a clue about how your school experiences differed from my own. I don't even know for sure whether you went to segregated schools, although I suspect you must have started out that way.

  6. For some reason, this post makes me think of the movie “The Jerk” in in which Steve Martin said, “I grew up a poor black child in Mississippi.” I loved that movie.

    When my sister became a nurse, she had to use a separate entrance to the hospital than the one that doctors used, and she was expected to stand up anytime a doctor entered a room she was in. So it was that nurses and blacks had a few things in common. By the time my wife became a nurse in the early eighties, those days were over, but she still couldn’t question a doctors’ orders even if she knew they were wrong. Nowadays, nurses can question orders, and if the doctor doesn’t like it, the nurse can file a formal complaint with the hospital. My wife, Peggy, has done that, and the hospital listened and tried to be fair. Maybe the Civil Rights Movement also helped nurses although that wasn’t it’s intent, and few nurses would think to ponder the possibility.