Until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, what became known vernacularly as “Jim Crow laws” wedged a painful and dehumanizing racial divide between black and white Americans, the repercussions of which are still felt to this day. While the prevalence of racially motivated bigotry was met with activism and protest, images of the Jim Crow laws in effect are less commonly seen than those from the civil rights movement.
Following the Reconstruction period after the American Civil War, a number of state and local laws were enacted to keep black populations of American citizens separate from their white counterparts. In 1896, following the critical case of Plessy v. Ferguson, the US Supreme Court ruled that as long as segregated facilitates remained “separate but equal,” racial segregation did not violate the US Constitution. Here in pictures are many of the common sights during what became known as the Jim Crow era.
White tenants seeking to prevent black Americans from moving into the Sojourner Truth Homes, a federal governmental housing project, erected this sign in Detroit in 1942.
Dr. and Mrs. Charles N. Atkins of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and their sons, Edmond, 10, and Charles, 3, pause for a glance at the Santa Fe Depot segregation sign on Nov. 25, 1955.
In this undated picture, men drink from segregated water fountains.
A teacher instructs a segregated class of black students at a poorly funded, one-room school in the backwoods of Georgia in 1941.
Black citizens sit in the rear of the bus in compliance with South Carolina segregation law in April 1956.
Rosa Parks is fingerprinted by a police officer in Montgomery, Alabama, on Feb. 22, 1956, two months after refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white passenger on Dec. 1, 1955. She was arrested with several others who violated segregation laws. Parks’ refusal to give up her seat led to a boycott of buses in December 1955, a tactic organized by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
US and Confederate flags fly from a car parked on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill in Nashville, where Gov. Frank Clement met with a delegation of pro-segregationists on Jan. 24, 1956. Clement turned down a bid to lead a fight for continued racial segregation, saying he did not plan to interfere with local authorities and their decisions on such matters.
Left: Freedom Rider James Zwerg stands bleeding after an attack by white pro-segregationists at the Greyhound Bus Terminal in Montgomery, Alabama, on May 20, 1961. Zwerg remained in the street for over an hour after the beating, since “white ambulances” refused to treat him. Right: Benny Oliver, a former Jackson, Mississippi, police officer, viciously kicks Memphis Norman, a black student who was waiting to be served at a segregated lunch counter. The rumor of possible civil rights actions in the town caused onlookers to cheer the beating.
An unidentified white student slugs an effigy of a hanging black student outside Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, on Oct. 3, 1957, as nearly 75 students of the school walked out to protest integration.
A group of young white boys harass the Baker family, the first black family to move into the all-white Delmar Village neighborhood of Folcroft, Pennsylvania, 1963. A 7-year-old child in Ku Klux Klansman robes participates in a KKK rally on April 14, 1956.
From left: Buddy Trammell, Max Stiles, and Tommy Sanders, students at Clinton High School in Clinton, Tennessee, picket their school when it becomes the first state-supported school to integrate, on Aug. 27, 1956.
A group of students known as the Little Rock Nine form a study group after being prevented from entering Little Rock’s newly integrated Central High School on Sept. 13, 1957.
Johnny Gray, 15, punches a white student during a scuffle in Little Rock, Arkansas, on June 16, 1958. Johnny and his sister, Mary (standing behind him), were en route to their segregated school when the two white boys in the photo ordered them to get off the sidewalk.
Left: Police officers O.M. Strickland and J.V. Johnson apply force in arresting Martin Luther King Jr. for loitering near a courtroom where one of his integration lieutenants was on the stand on Sept. 4, 1958. King claimed that he was beaten and choked by the arresting officers, while the police denied the charges. Right: Demonstrators picket over lunch counter segregation on Nov. 1, 1960.
Counter-protesting against civil rights demonstrations, Edward R. Fields and James Murray, members of the National States Rights Party, hang an effigy of Martin Luther King Jr. outside the party’s headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama, on May 6, 1963.
Police examine the wreckage of the newly desegregated Hattie Cotton grammar school, which was dynamited in Nashville, Tennessee, on Sept. 10, 1957. The entire east wall and four classrooms were demolished. The attack occurred after a single six-year-old black child was admitted at this school to the first grade.
An unruly mob protesting integration of the Clinton High School attacks a car full of black people who just happened to be passing through on Aug. 31, 1956.
Demonstrators outside of West End High School in Birmingham, Alabama, sing songs and cheer during an anti-desegregation protest on Sept. 10, 1963.
Roy Lee Howlett, 14, stands beside a car painted with signs protesting the desegregation of Mansfield High School in Dallas on Aug. 31, 1956.
Women and teenagers at William Franz Elementary School yell at police officers during a protest against the desegregation of the school, as three black youngsters attended classes at the school for the second day on Nov. 15, 1960. The sign on the far right reads: “All I Want for Christmas Is a Clean White School.”
David Isom, 19, broke the color line in one of this city’s segregated public pools on June 8, 1958, which resulted in officials closing the facility.
Demonstrators staging a sit-in at a drugstore lunch counter in Arlington, Virginia, are picketed by members of the American Nazi Party in 1960.
A man waves a Confederate flag before a group of demonstrators in front of an Indianapolis hotel where then-Gov. George Wallace of Alabama was staying on April 14, 1964.
Klansmen form a circle around a burning cross at a rally in Albany, Georgia, which an estimated 3,000 persons attended in 1962.
Rev. Ralph Abernathy (left) and Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker inspect the wreckage of the Negro Shady Grove Baptist Church in Leesburg, Georgia, after the structure was demolished in a fire believed touched off by an explosion on Aug. 15, 1962.
Civil rights activists trying to stage a protest are blocked by National Guardsmen brandishing bayonets on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, 1968.
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