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Life in the Jim Crow South

February 5, 2013 in 1960s-1970s

After the civil war ended, what we now know was the Jim Crow laws were put into place, deeming African Americans “separate but equal.” While it is true that the Jim Crow laws certainly separated blacks and whites, they by no means made life “equal”.  Trivial daily activities such as getting a drink of water from a water fountain or going to the bathroom were all based around what the color of your skin was. White people would usually have a nice, clean, and convenient water fountain, for example, where as blacks would have a small dirty water fountain that was out of sight.

Segregated water fountains 

However the segregation didn’t stop at water fountains.  American society in the early 20th century was segregated in every way possible. Restaurants, movie theaters, carnivals, schools, and even shoe stores had a separate, lesser method for serving blacks. Eleanor Jordan of Louisville recalls a time from her youth when her family was not allowed in a local amusement park.

We would always ask the same question: “Can we go?” My mother and father would almost simultaneously say “No, you can’t go.” We’d kind of sit there and then as we passed it we’d say “Well why can’t we go?” That’s when there was just this deafening silence in the car. My mother’s eyes would always fill up with tears, and my father would just kind of look away, and we knew something was wrong.

 

The result of the Jim Crow laws was not a society where blacks and whites led lives with equal opportunities, but instead a prejudice society where most white citizens were just as unfair to African Americans as they had been in decades past.

Ironically, at the same time black maids played a large role in white southern society. These women were quite often primary caretakers for white children through their younger years. As stated in The Maid Narratives “small white children sometimes felt closer to their black caretakers than they did their mothers.” As the children aged, however, a segregated society encouraged them to look down upon their black caretakers.

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Fosl, Catherine, and Tracy Elaine. K’Meyer. Freedom on the Border: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky, 2009. Print.
“Jim Crow Laws.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Jan. 2013. Web. 04 Feb. 2013.
Van, Wormer Katherine S., David W. Jackson, and Charletta Sudduth. The Maid Narratives: Black Domestics and White Families in the Jim Crow South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 2012. Print.

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