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What Were Jim Crow Laws?
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The Jim Crow laws were legal and social restrictions that separated African Americans from white Americans during the late 1800s and early 1900s. (Jim Crow was a stereotype of an African American song-and-dance man). In 1868 the U.S. Congress (the country's law-making body) passed the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which guaranteed all Americans equal rights. In many Southern states, however, local governments and legislatures (law-making bodies) passed laws that segregated (separated) African Americans from white Americans in public places. For example, an African American was not allowed to use a whites-only drinking fountain. The U.S. Supreme Court made rulings that supported state segregation laws. The most famous was the Plessy v. Ferguson case. In 1896 the Court upheld a Louisiana law that required separate-but-equal facilities for whites and African Americans in railroad cars. For fifty years, state governments used this ruling to justify segregation in public facilities, including schools, hospitals, and restrooms.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation is illegal, overturning the Jim Crow laws. In the case of Brown v. the Board of Education (1954), parents of African American children in the Topeka, Kansas, elementary schools argued that African American children were being denied the right to equal protection guaranteed in the Fourteenth Amendment. On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court agreed that segregated schools denied equal protection. Thus, the Court overturned its earlier Plessy v. Ferguson ruling and outlawed segregation. In 1960 the Supreme Court again ruled against segregation laws in Boynton v. Virginia. Chief appellant (appeals) lawyer Thurgood Marshall (1908–1993) presented the case of law student Bruce Boynton, who contested segregation laws at a bus station in Richmond, Virginia. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Boynton, sending a clear message to state governments that public facilities are for the use of all people, regardless of skin color. These rulings were an important part of the Civil Rights movement (a campaign for equal rights for African Americans that began in the South during the 1960s).
Further Information: Fireside, Harvey. Plessy vs. Ferguson: Separate But Equal? Springfield, N.J.: Enslow, 1997; Kraft, Betsy Harvey. Sensational Trials. New York: Scholastic, 1998, pp. 106–26; McLynn, Frank. Famous Trials: Cases That Made History. Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader's Digest, 1995, pp. 36-41; NCRM Interactive Tour: Jim Crow Laws. [Online] Available http://www.midsouth. rr.com/civilrights/it13.html, October 30, 2000; O'Neill, Charles Edwards. "Separate But Never Equal." America. April 1, 1996, pp. 13–14; Whitelaw, Nancy. Mr. Civil Rights: The Story of Thurgood Marshall. Greensboro, N.C.: Morgan Reynolds, 1995.
Posted by fact-finder on October 10, 2011 at 4:00 PM (Answer #1)
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