"Good-bye to Jim Crow?"

  • Image 01
    [1] Good-by [sic] to Jim Crow? Fifty years ago the status of the Black man in the United States was not very different from what it was at the end of the Civil War. Lynching, Disfranchisement, Color-Conscience Courts, segregation in education, employment, housing, and public places were the order of the day–and not merely in the South. Today much has been changed–more than 1,250,000 Blacks in the South are registered to vote. Congress has more than 6 Black members[,] scores are in Northern City Councils and State legislatures and in approximately all the Southern states, others sit as judges. Today equal justice under the law is less of a slogan, more of a reality in the courts of the North and occasionally even of the South. Industry and business now have increasing numbers of Blacks semi-skilled, technical, and white collar workers. The Supreme Court has outlawed discrimination in the public schools as well as in travel ad public recreation. None of this progress came automatically or through the voluntary abandonment of cherished and favored privilege. It had to be
  • Image 01
    [2] fought for and won. Much still lies ahead in the fight for freedom. There are “two Americas”–black and white–and nothing has more clearly revealed the divisions between them than the debate currently raging around the slogan of “black power.” It is difficult for most whites to grasp the profundity of the gaps between their experience and the Blacks’ experience. The division between the two Americas are obscured by the language and social institutions that the races have superficially in common as well as by patterns of life that discourage all but myth–reinforcing interracial contacts. But the divisions are real and deep, and they spring in large measure from the fact that while both races live in the same social, political, cultural and economic milieu, their experiences in this milieu have been opposite and contradictory. Most whites came to America voluntarily from a situation thought to be bad to a situation considered potentially better. And for most of them or their children life here was indeed quantitatively if not always qualitatively more abundant. They came to preserve a religion or cultural identity
  • Image 01
    [3] and were able to do so but not without a struggle. But the Blacks came here a slave, ripped brutally out of his African Motherland and borne across the Atlantic in chains. His awareness of his own history his cultural, his family life, his religion, even his original name–all were virtually blotted out, and barriers were erected against their rediscovery that are only now being overcome. For two hundred years he remained the white man’s property. Even after the emancipation most Blacks were not far from de-facto slavery and tragically for the nation the same institutions that made possible prosperity of the incoming whites were involved both as beneficiaries and partisans in the enslavement and exploitation of Blacks. This cruel paradox paid for by the continual dilution of our national idealism with “The base alloy of hypocrisy[”] has continued to the present and has been consistently reflected in the attitude of both races. Most whites can see some of its effects on the Blacks but few whites even suspect that it has marked them just as surely. This historical division between the prosperous free
  • Image 01
    [4] man and his world view on the one hand and the oppressed slave and his world view on the other is foundation of the wall between the two Americas. What has this meant in terms of the law? The law has the stated function of protecting citizens and their property. In the master-slave relationship the law could hardly function the same for the white citizen and property owner as it did for his Black piece of property[.] It was illegal to let a slave read a book. It was necessary because of what white male citizens did to their Black female property, to declare all slave offspring illegitimate. Reconstruction brought temporary changes in the effects of the law for the Blacks, only because the dominant Republicans found it politically advantageous. When this situation no longer appeared advantageous the ex-slaves were all left to the devices of their former masters. Today both in the South and in the North the law appears to Negroes as the force that keeps them in their place. The law subjects them to the whims of its enforcers while it is
  • Image 01
    [5] unable to make good on its own written pledges of equality in employment, education, housing, or simple protection.
  • Image 01
  • Image 01
"Good-bye to Jim Crow?"
Clark, Septima Poinsette, 1898-1987
Handwritten essay by Septima P. Clark "regarding the basic historic differences between black and white America."
Septima P. Clark Papers, ca. 1910-ca. 1990
Contributing Institution:
Avery Research Center at the College of Charleston
Media Type:
Topical Subject:
African Americans--Civil rights, African Americans--Education, African Americans--History--20th century, African American women teachers
Shelving Locator:
AMN 1000 Box 03 Folder 24
Internet Media Type:
Digitization Specifications:
300 dpi, 24-bit depth, color, Fujitsu fi-7160, Archival masters are tiffs.
Copyright Status Statement:
Copyright © Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture.
Access Information:
For more information contact archivist at the Avery Research Center, 125 Bull Street, Charleston, SC 29424.