Readings on Jim Crow in Arkansas

Slavery by Another Name A brief period of Black empowerment (“Reconstruction”)
took place after the Civil War. Unfortunately, by the late 1880s, the situation had worsened, and near slavery conditions taken back hold in the South. This article explores convict labor. This reading shows us how in southern counties, white merchants, judges, industrialists and law enforcement officers worked in concert to to effectively re-enslave Blacks, particularly Black men. It reminds us of the unspeakable brutality inflicted upon our ancestors as the nineteenth century turned into the twentieth.

Jim Crow in Arkansas I enjoyed the depiction of the successes of Blacks in Arkansas during Reconstruction, as well as the thoughtful depiction of the mechanisms by which those successes created anxiety in the state’s rural white population.

Making Place Making Race This article shows how racial roles are socially constructed, and also, how identity can be chosen and constructed.


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22 Responses to Readings on Jim Crow in Arkansas

  1. Leslie says:

    One thing we discussed in class last week that I think we will keep asking throughout the semester, is why do we frame history this way, when we know that that framing is incorrect and incomplete? We used the example of Rosa Parks and how the story is often told as a spontaneous act instead of a well planned protest. A few quotes from this weeks’ reading about Natchez Mississippi helped explain this question. First, we are all “notoriously selective in the exercise of historical memory.” We remember what we want to remember! We remember versions of the story that make us more comfortable, that make us look better, that allow us to downplay parts of history that we just don’t want to deal with. The second quote is “[d]etermining which versions of the past become accepted as true and universal carries considerable cultural and political authority.” We want to create versions of history that we are more comfortable with because those versions can become accepted as true. If we tell the story a certain way, and that way is then published in media, textbooks, and recited in our oral history, it becomes fact. The author of the Natchez piece also does a nice job explaining that what we forget is as important as what we remember. It’s not just about including the parts of the story that we want to include, it’s also about leaving out the parts of the story that we want to forget. The last quote that stood out is “[w]ho controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.” Natchez was such a perfect depiction of this truth. The elite whites of the town controlled the present. As a result, they created a way to control the past and how the history of the Old South was embodied. Through these efforts, they were also able to control the future of Natchez for quite a while. It all goes back to something we discussed in the first week of class—be aware of your own biases and the biases of the authors you read! I am looking forward to this unit so I can discover more of my own biases and better understand how others may view the same historical event in a completely different way—probably because I have never known any other account than the one created by the people in control at that time and passed down as historical truth since then.

    • Leslie, very interesting point regarding “why we choose to frame history” the way we do. I agree, memory is selective. You are right, memories can be very painful. I totally agree that we want to be comfortable. ~WMB

  2. Dylan P. says:

    The readings for this week meet with the conversation from last weeks class in the quotation from Hoelscher “It matters a great deal when And where a cultural memory is established, just as the forces that shape it are spatially and temporally contingent.” We spoke quite a bit about the framing of history and how that affects our memories and interpretations of it. This concept takes on a greater significance when we consider that, within the context of an oppressed group placed opposition to dominant and conceptually undefined group. As was the case in the American south—shown by the Natchez example—white people outwardly defined or essentialized African Americans to give definition to whiteness without defining it at all. That is to say that Black people were told what they were (i.e., the other) in a way that gave White people the position as a sort of neutral norm in American society—to the American is to be white. This relates to previous class conversation in pointing out the dubious feat of laying claim to an event or identity without allowing the real stakeholders to lay claim to it. With the bus boycotts, way of looking at history was imposed on the overall society (which is dominantly white and lacks the proper point of view to get an accurate perspective), from the dominant segment of society. This is similar to the way we see black identity described in this weeks readings. Those who—it seems—would have the means to stake claim to an identity get handed an identity that is so deeply ingrained in the overarching society—grounded in time and place—that to go against it seems nonsensical. This is primarily because to argue against “whiteness” or to even try to define “whiteness” as an a priori concept makes no sense in the framework of reconstruction. It would be like arguing about neutral air versus a smell in that air.

    • Dear Dylan, yes. The neutral norm of being white still very much pervades our society. In addition, there is a neutral norm of being a white man. This article shows how socially constructed our ideas of race are. Race does not actually exist, but that is another conversation. But your point about “defining whiteness is a good one.” ~WMB

  3. Andrea says:

    Last week I watched the excellent documentary Slavery by Another Name on PBS. I had particular interest in this piece because the topic is provocative and the author of the book the documentary is based on, Douglas A. Blackmon, and I graduated from the same high school. He graduated about 20 years earlier:0

    The excerpt from the book helped further explain how slavery didn’t end after emancipation. After slavery “ended”, institutionalized corruption for financial gains was still a part of the culture. The corruption in the form of the peonage system and forced labor in the south further deepened the divide between Blacks and Whites. Blacks were forced into harsh labor in mines or lumber camps as a result of talking too loud in the presence of White women or riding on empty freight train cars, for example. The use of water torture, and lashing in this institution served to further dehumanize “citizens”, and many of these laborers were killed in the name of greed and hate. The free were not totally free. Many black citizens, particularly in the south, were still mentally in bondage as a result of slavery, and lived with the threat of being physically enslaved through forced labor.

    It is interesting that the constitution was used as a tool to justify the peonage system. The thirteenth amendment says, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The proponents of the peonage system used the except clause to support their actions. Ironically, this same argument is used to support the prison industrial complex of our time.

    The peonage system that started with greed at its core was not only a part of the south, but Wall Street tycoons and other northerners with economic interest in the south became a part of this culture. Greed was stronger than humanity, and those with power and privilege capitalized on this awful institution. Using vulnerable populations for economic gain is inhumane and deplorable, but it is a major part of American history.

  4. Dear Andrea, I found it surprising that the black men were subjected to waterboarding, which we now use against terrorists. I also think your point re using the constitution to oppress is a key one. I hope we explore peonage, and its roots. ~WMB

  5. Britney Sink says:

    An interesting theme I found in this week’s articles was the growing importance of and reliance on “whiteness” as a determining factor of societal value in the late 1800s and into the 20th century. The “Jim Crow in Arkansas” article indicates that although blacks were of lesser status in many places, the distinction of being white was not emphasized until racism became more institutionalized. This delineation led to further and sometimes more extreme racism, especially in the South. Added to the significance of being white was the introduction to many of Darwin’s work, which to an extent “verified” what white people were already practicing: that blacks were not equal. The article also mentions that within cities, racism was less visible until they were impacted by racism from more rural areas that stemmed from slave holding plantations and farms. In the “Making Place Making Race” article, the differentiation between black and white served to highlight the very institutions and lifestyle that oppressed blacks. Indeed, token black participants in the Confederate Pageant glorified the “beauty” and “status” of being white in the South, going so far as to contribute to the charade of slaves being happy and well treated by their owners.

    Another factor, not only in these readings, but in all we have discussed thus far, is the amount of corruption present in the system that, although maybe not specifically written in law, was nonetheless present. Trish mentioned the idea of corruption in passing and it got me thinking about the implications, both seen and unseen, for racism and oppression. A perfect example of this is the concept of leasing convicts, depicted in the “Slavery By Another Name” article. Because sheriffs and “justices of the peace” took advantage of the system, slavery continued long after its abolition. Adding on to this corruption were businessmen that used the cheap labor to an extreme. This also brings up the question of the system itself. Was it intentionally built in such a way to allow for abuse or did it begin with good intentions? It is extreme that people could so easily reconcile the idea of being a morally upright citizen and participating in a system that actively sought out to oppress and quite literally killed many black citizens.

    • Dear Britney,
      I think you have made an interesting point that the distinction of being whit was not emphasized until racism became more institutionalized. The process of instutionalizing race and racism was a very long one, and took centuries. It included the Irish, the Italians, and the Polish, among others. To be clear Darwin did not say anything about race, to my knowledge, people just took it that way. Your point about the “system” is a good one.

  6. nalmeida75 says:

    Suffices to say the US is the only country in the world that asks about race/ethnicity, both in State and Federal official forms.
    Modern American identity is forged in its defining crucible of social pressure, projected in its many forms of racialization and political struggle.
    American politics is always a controversial dichotomy between two extreme opposites that bargain their way down to the middle. The one who gets there last wins.
    Colonial America practices of contracting with indentured servants and executing trading rights over their labor, endured well past the 1700’s.
    When convict labor was not profitable anymore, contract laborers were first indentured (the ”puritan way”), then apportioned and forcefully displaced (…“those bound to service”) for representation and taxation purposes, a method contemplated by the United States Constitution.
    Up until the American Revolutionary War it was estimated that as many as 50 to 70% of Germans coming to America and 80% of British were the so called “redemptioners”.
    This practice of valuable human cargo farmed labor-intensive tobacco crops in the Upper South until when they were made redundant by African slaves. As Africans began to replace skilled and unskilled indentured servants in the crops, the later moved from a rural to an urban colonial landscape in America. And so, continued the articulation of the past to become collective memory into the present landscape.
    My contention is that the American process of racialization has roots far back to the first settlers but only gained cultural expression with segregation.
    Wright’s Natchez Confederate Pageant is an historic metaphor to portray the psychological violence, pre and post Great Depression period, in an obsolete rural South.
    The nostalgic “race” and “place” reenactment by the “Women’s Garden Club” marks a turning point in History when the South was at a crossroad to choose the foundations of its own identity. On one side were the elite white women with the “Lost Cause”, in the middle were intellectuals like Wilbur Cash and the “Old South” before Jim Crow’s era dysfunction and at opposite side laid the while males new version of the Henry W. Grady industrialized South.
    According to the author, this is a story of “spatial control” and “consolidated” marginalization, choreographed in antebellum lineage and meritocracy, anchored on white social pressure and black poverty.
    Unlike urban Arkansas, the city of Natchez did not enjoy a breathing pause during the period of Reconstruction in the sphere of civil rights.
    Unlikely to have seen anything even vaguely resembling the urban black protest during the Arkansas legislature of 1873, Mississippi segregation was more endemic, outside the formal provisions of caste ordinances.
    This contrast between moderate south, urban Little Rock de jure segregation and a predominantly rural system, de facto segregation like Natchez, explains why the civil rights project did not come to Mississippi before the sixties and why Arkansas “white attitudes” weakened, allowing for discontinued periods of racial friction.
    Perhaps because of the lack of research available on segregation in Arkansas, Graves seems to rely too often on accounts from the cream of crop in the black community, Gazette and party politics which do not accurately reflect the whole reality and may even convey a wrong idea.
    The idea presiding the debate between the Gantt and Pinnix Bills, involving both urban and rural incumbents, was motivated by economic and electoral arguments, not racial (dis)association. The boycott rallied by the black ministers in response was cross-class and motivated by civil disobedience in respect for law and order.

    • Dear Nuno. Very good post, but I would take issue with the idea that racialization only gained cultural expression with segregation. But we can talk about that. I like your use of the concept of “breathing pause” as reconstruction. What did you think of the tactics the black ministers used? ~WMB

  7. Katie Milligan says:

    I think the most interesting reading from this week was “Making Place, Making Race”. I like how the article pointed out that memory is a social process; those currently in power control the memory of the past. That has been a consistent phenomenon throughout the history of our country. We spoke in class last week about how the white men writing the history books have shaped the history of our country. That thought resonated with me during this reading. How different would our history be if the idea of “whiteness” were not dependent on the lessening of another racial groups? The instance in Natchez is one of many cases in which this process of “whiteness” is being created by the memory of a subservient population. On a global scale, I think Americans do this as well. Our identity as “Americans” is based on the idea of being a citizen of the best country in the world; superiority shrouds the definition of our national identity. It may be more multilayered than an ethnic definition of “black or white”, but our memory of the interactions of the United States in the world are created by the thought that other countries and other nationalities are less than our own. I think all of the articles tie together how this idea is created.
    “Slavery by Another Name” paints the picture of how African Americans were exploited economically and politically even after the end of slavery. White mine owners chose to believe that they were humanely treating this forced labor, and perpetuated the idea that freed African Americans could not take care of themselves. So while the Natchez case is dependent on the memory of the glorious past, the glorious (and recent) past shaped the blind eye that these mine owners chose to continue during Reconstruction. “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past” (Hoelscher).

  8. Dear Katie,
    I agree, I also like how the article pointed out that memory is a social process. Of course, now that women and people of color are writing history, we have different stores we can examine. One interesting point, not made by the readings, is that who is white has changed over time. At one point, the Irish were not white, now they are. ~WMB

  9. Mitchell Adams says:

    Making Place, Making Race

    Steven Hoelsher’s “Making Place, Making Race: Performances of Whiteness in the Jim Crow South uses the example of Natchez, Mississippi to show how the construction of whiteness is upheld by using performances that draw upon the imagined perfection of white life during the pre-Civil War period while also reducing the black population to near-mindless servants, loyal and appreciative to their masters. Though the idea of whiteness is relatively new, its presence, especially in the American South, is held very deeply and has played a very important role in its history. Events such as the Natchez Pilgrimage are used to reinforce the glory of whiteness and play on emotions that are still present today. What I believe is most damaging and incorrect with the portrayal of black people in the pilgrimage is that they are witnessed as being subservient but happy. Instead of portraying white-black relations as a difference in levels of power or resources, it is portrayed as if there was now even a question that black people could ever achieve, or even want, the same opportunities as whites. This is fairly obvious considering the article is dealing with a time and place in which slavery was seen as the norm of everyday life, but I came away from reading the article with a deeper understanding of how illusions of race are upheld and just exactly how brutal life of blacks in the South truly was. This reading serves an example of how it important it is to be aware of the bias present in some historical accounts. The author uses a quote to the effect of who controls the past controls the future and who controls the present controls the past. Using the message from those words, it can be seen that the real struggle for identity and history is occurring now and that it is our responsibility to fight against unjust systems and representations that are founded on false accounts of a perceived past.

  10. jessonnf says:

    The article on Jim Crow in Arkansas’ thesis seems to be that race relations in the cities of Arkansas were fairly progressive during the later part of the 19th century, and that what changed was that the people from the more rural areas imposed their will on those in the city, resulting in a more segregated society. The idea behind the thesis is that those in the country didn’t interact with other people as much, their neighbors tend to be further away, so they are more wary of those around that are unlike them. This is only accentuated by the fact that outside of the cities in Arkansas there aren’t as many small towns, instead there are more homesteads. This was even truer a century ago. There are a few things that this thesis tends to gloss over. First, it’s not like the majority of Arkansans were living in the city, and the few country folk ruined everything. In 1900 Arkansas only had an urban population of 6.9%, compared to 45% for Ohio, and even 14% for the more southern Tennessee or Georgia. I think that this resentment that is portrayed of blacks at the turn of the century wasn’t entirely racial, it was that the more rural Arkansans tended to resent everyone from the city, black and white. Since the black population was heavily concentrated in the cities, it turned into something more than that. When Jeff Davis was elected in 1900 it was because of his strong support in rural areas, mostly due to the perceived comforts of the city dwellers that he railed against. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether his populism led to his racist outlook, or if he viewed populism as a good excuse to enact de jour segregation. Once in office there was little doubt whether he supported de jour segregation. He famously said that the Arkansas schools were good enough and didn’t need to be improved. In 1906 he got the Democratic Party to amend party rules to restrict voting eligibility in the primary to “all legally qualified white electors how paid a poll tax.” But his populism went further than just rhetoric, as he helped lead the way in anti-trust law to even out the playing field for the Arkansas farmer against those that controlled the trusts and railroad systems. He was Arkansas’ first active populist governor, even though he was a deeply flawed individual, who either used racism to help his populist agenda, or used populism to help his racist agenda.

  11. Stan says:

    Slavery By Another Name

    This reading exposed me to one of the many methods employed in the south after the abolishment of slavery to disenfranchise newly emancipated African-Americans and force them into a state of servitude not fundamentally different than their previous status as slaves. It was interesting to discover how the economic incentives to employ practically free labor paired with the structure of the legal system in Alabama and elsewhere in the south created a lucrative market for the trade of prisoners. Additionally, the economic incentives to participate in this market led to greater arrests and incarceration of African-Americans for petty crimes (regardless of actual guilt), in order to increase profits.

    What struck me greatly was the level of collusion present in the system between those representing government and those representing business interests. Deputies of the state would not only provide a steady stream of cheap labor based on the demand demonstrated by business interests, they also ignored and covered up the incredibly dire conditions prisoners endured after being transferred into the hands of their new masters in the mines, foundries, or elsewhere.

    One question that always crosses my mind when reading of such atrocities is “where were the good guys?” It was encouraging to learn of the efforts of Reginald Dawson, who was in charge of guarding the welfare of leased prisoners. Despite the difficulties he faced in improving the conditions of these prisoners, I found through additional research that his leadership was instrumental in the eventual adoption of reforms that reduced workloads and punishments and allowed convicts to send and receive letters. Despite the dire circumstances, there were local leaders going against the grain and fighting to improve the conditions of the marginalized.

  12. Veena says:

    One of the main things that really stood out to me in the “Jim Crow in Arkansas” and the “Making Place, Making Race” readings was the vast difference in how Arkansas and Mississippi reacted to the end of the Civil War and to slavery. Mississippi, an established state and a land of plantations and generations of slaves, continued to minimize the role of black people, while Arkansas, a newer state and one without large plantations, took to the emancipation of slavery quite well overall.

    Natchez, MS, and Little Rock could not have differed more in their treatment of and attitude toward black people following the War. In Natchez, the emphasis was on preserving the “history of memory”, while in Little Rock – for the most part – black people were allowed and even encouraged to become professionals and to contribute to the community. While Natchez focused on emphasizing its past, Little Rock was electing blacks to high positions and allowing black and white people to ride together in the same streetcars.

    I was actually mildly surprised to read about early race relations in Little Rock. To be fair, I had never learned much about the history of race relations in Arkansas, which, looking back on it, is weird, considering I grew up in Arkansas. I think because of where I grew up, race relations were brushed under the carpet, so to speak. Growing up in a town that was divided along racial lines, there were many things that were not spoken about, so I never learned that blacks were actually treated well in some parts of Arkansas.

  13. Matt Lyon says:

    In the readings this week, I was struck by the dichotomy between Slavery by Another Name and Jim Crow in Arkansas. In SBAN, blacks were sometimes trapped into indentured servitude through minor offenses and by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Essentially, their blackness was criminalized. It was not the first, and certainly not the last in a string of laws that intentionally disproportionately affect a certain group. More contemporary examples include marijuana prohibition (against blacks and Mexicans), laws restricting the mobility of German and Japanese immigrants during WWII, the Draconian jail sentences imposed on crack-cocaine users (stereotypically black) compared with cocaine users (stereotypically white), the banning of mosque constructions, the racially-focused assault on immigrants in Arizona and Alabama, and even criminalizing homelessness. A recent anecdote is in the city of Jacksonville, FL. It is perfectly legal for someone to nap in a city park during opening hours if they have a residential address. However, if the napper is awakened by a police officer and s/he asks if the napper has a place to go, and the napper answers, “No”, s/he is arrested. If we think that America is drastically different from Reconstruction, we need only look a little deeper to recognize the thinly-veiled institutionalized assault on all kinds of minorities.

    JCIA seemed to paint Little Rock with overly-rosy brush strokes, while rural Arkansans (and the politicians that catered to the ruralists) are viewed as backwards, racists. While the misdeeds and misguided efforts of governor Jeff Davis (also the name of the President of the Confederacy) are exposed, too often it seems the urban whites play the part of the defender of the blacks, whether it is touting their accomplishments to President Grant, or standing up for desegregation of the streetcar. My gut feeling is that Arkansas and Little Rock were not much different from the rest of the county at the time. The article fails to mention that, according to, 231 black lynchings occurred between 1860 and 1930. Jeff Davis is also quoted as saying “[W]e have come to a parting of the way with the Negro. If the brutal criminals of that race…lay unholy hands upon our fair daughters, nature is so riven and shocked that the dire compact produces a social cataclysm.” Thus lynching represented not only a way of asserting white supremacy but also a political tool wielded by demagogues. This is a far cry from the solidarity expressed by some white streetcar riders in the text.

  14. Russell says:

    Making Place, Making Race: Performances of Whiteness in the Jim Crow South
    by Steven Hoelscher
    Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 93, No. 3 (Sep., 2003) pp. 657-686

    While Steven Hoelscher’s article dwells mainly on the history of Natchez, Mississippi and its annual Pilgrimage, the most disturbing part of the article lies in its conclusion, describing the selectively historical event which still takes place today – In fairness, the website’s history of Natchez at least mentions slavery and the contributions of Natchez’s African Americans like Hiram Revels (the first African-American elected to Congress), but it still downplays the part slavery and oppression played in creating the wealth and grandeur of Natchez’s old city. “While cotton offered the means to that wealth, slaves provided the labor” (p. 664).

    Hoelsher brings a unique perspective to the discussion of how a history of slavery was dealt with in a post-war south. By examining “cultural performances and landscape” Hoelsher demonstrates how “selective versions of the past are often made concrete through material objects” (p. 661). The profile of Katherine Miller and the part the Natchez Garden Club played in creating a gentrified and whitened version of Natchez’s past was particularly enlightening. The temporary beautification of black neighborhoods for Pilgrimage, the limited visibility of African-Americans in open houses and the Pageant, and the positive portrayals of slavery all served to create “white-defined black characters” (p. 673) The reenactments were a purposely limited version of history that educated future generations; “it became almost impossible for some to grow up in Natchez without taking part in the memory display” (p. 670).

    I remember, as a child, reading through old primary schoolbooks that belonged to my great-grandmother who lived in the Delta region of Arkansas that paralleled the “history” presented by the Pilgrimage and the Confederate Pageant – of happy slaves working and singing for benevolent masters, and talking with my grandmother who grew up with this version of history (if not in her own history books, in the cultural traditions she was raised under), as she defended the role of whites in the antebellum south saying (and I paraphrase), “Most masters treated their slaves very well.”

  15. Trish says:

    Slavery Called by Another Name

    While I hope to maintain some sort of intellectual neutrality in our discussions in this class, what I have learned from this essay evokes a most emotional response, so many apologies.

    The history depicted in this essay and the moving, accompanying PBS video left me saddened and disgusted. While I think we would all like to move forward and create anew our country with equality and harmony, it seems that the history of the horrific treatment of free Blacks following their legal redemption is even more complex and grotesque than I had ever imagined. In particular, the vagrancy clauses demonstrate that while on the books slavery had been abolished, greedy and dishonorable men were able to legally justify further exploitation and mistreatment by accusing and convicting an often innocent person of a ridiculous crime, with an unbelievable sentence. From 1874, 14,000 Blacks returned to slavery through legal punishment through these clauses. By 1890 there were 164,000 Black prisoners serving a term of slavery. This is highlighted even more so by the existence and brutal injustice of the peonage system, directed at Black sharecroppers, which permitted whites to enslave free black citizens as debtors. This system served a two-fold purpose. Not only did it reduce the competition for white farmers, this free labor contributed to greater profits for the businesses using the labor. Of course, economic gain, as we often use to justify heinous behavior today, was considered to be socially desirable and acceptable. Businesses that profited from this system must have been asking themselves why they hadn’t supported abolition sooner, considering with this new “criminal” labor force was entitled to even less humanity; abusing and maiming their Black workers who were seen, just as criminals are today, as deserving of such mistreatment.

    Furthermore, what I find particularly informative and foreshadowing is the frightening correlation between the use of “incarceration” and forced servitude during Reconstruction and the early Jim Crow years, and the current gross over representation of Black men serving time. (See chart, source: And here we all thought this disproportion was because of immediate circumstances created by poverty, social alienation and cultural degradation, little did we realize that the causes of this gross inequity may, in fact, run much deeper.

  16. Mark Eastham says:

    “Jim Crow in Arkansas: A Reconciliation of Urban Race Relations in the Post-Reconstruction South” John William Graves

    John Graves does not view segregation legislation as spawning primarily from the city. Instead, he feels that segregation in Arkansas emerged from the countryside whereby radical whites used their influence to pressure urban political figures to conform to their views. At the beginning of the article, the author shows us that acceptance of segregated facilities in Arkansas was most easily noticed in public schools. After the Civil War, the state’s legislator established a school system that excluded blacks and, in turn, made them exempt from the payment of state school tax. It is interesting to see that, contrarily to education and mental health facilities, blacks initiated religious segregation by separating themselves from predominately white churches. The author describes this African-American separation as a response to “white psychological exclusion.” This type of resistance to psychological exclusion can be seen throughout modern day history, as colonized and subjugated peoples frequently adhered to their own customs and beliefs in lieu of social oppression. A simple example of this could be the fact that the social and religious practice of voodoo still exists in African American culture in Louisiana.
    Graves notes that after Reconstruction Arkansas Blacks had managed to avoid a system of, “either total exclusion or total separation in public facilities.” The author’s mention that urban developments brought a change in social perception of both innovation and intellect is very interesting because he compares it to the mindset of plantation owners. The divide in racial thought of both urban and rural whites, in this case, shows how African-American development and productivity lead to a dissemination of racial acceptance. Graves shows us that Black doctors, lawyers, and other professionals worked and were depended on by whites and, their skill, rather than their physical make-up, was the main issue of concern.

  17. Jake says:

    Over the course of the late nineteenth century African Americans were afforded an increasingly marginal space in both public spaces as well as in the public discourse. Just as public spaces became more tightly regulated with the transition to the Jim Crow era, so too did the Labor Day parades.During the New South era urban spaces frequently became battlegrounds over public behavior. Historians of the American South have pointed to the significance of black resistance to white domination in public spaces leading up to and during the Jim Crow era. They argue that in these spaces—in city parks, on public transportation, and in the streets—issues of race, class and gender oftentimes violently converged. Jane Dailey writes: “The appropriation of public space was an important way for African Americans in this period to assert their humanity, demonstrate their political rights, and stake their claim to equal citizenship.” Public spaces were also places where city officials attempted to construct an image of of the New South. The streets represented a liminal space during the Jim Crow era, where the incomplete dominance of white supremacy was most visible. Unlike on trains or in theaters, the color line could not be drawn as easily on the streets. Even during a highly organized in which black and white workers were segregated, conflict was always a very real possibility. The article on the peformances of whiteness reminded me of the highly contested Labor Day celebrations during and immediately following the reconstruction era. The origin of Labor Day is relatively well known and has been closely examined in the historical literature, but its many historical antecedents and adoption in the South have not. What did it mean to white workers and to African Americans? What were the class, gender and race dynamics of these labor day celebrations and how did they evolve over the course of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century? How did unions attempt to represent the holiday and what purpose did it serve? How did the public respond to the adoption of a Northern holiday? What was the importance of Labor Day for Southern cities and how did politicians respond to or use the day? How did the press commentate on or describe the emerging holiday?
    While unions largely excluded black workers during this time, in cities across the south blacks organized their own labor day parades or else were marginally featured in basically white union parades. Labor Day is a legacy of the Knights of Labor and the tumultuous 1880s in which interracial celebrations were often common, even in the South. Politicians, while at first wary, came to embrace the day as a symbol of the progress of the New South. Labor Day represented an important day not only for unions and workers to highlight particular grievances and celebrate the virtues of their labor—and argue for their centrality to America—but it also became the one day of the year that the mainstream press, which often ignored the labor movement, reflected on workers, unions and the state of labor relations more generally. The Labor Day events offered visual evidence of union practices. In cooperating even in limited ways across racial lines, Labor Day parades could open up political and cultural space for local challenges to the status quo. The public nature of these parades also provides an opportunity to examine the evolving race, class and gender dynamics in public spaces in the transition to the Jim Crow era. South Carolina and Louisiana offer strikingly different examples of the evolution of Labor Day.

  18. Sydney Shearer says:

    The reading from Slavery by Another Name really struck me because it is an aspect of Jim Crow that I have never heard about before and is a clear example of the invisible building of oppression that we discussed last week. The structure of the slave master and slave relationship created an underlying need for new legal structures in the South. Local sheriffs who, it seems, jumped at the chance to have more power in the community subsequently assumed the role of the slave owner. The fee system only encouraged this. Essentially, this structure set up a system that encouraged the re-enslavement of African Americans through the criminal justice system. Sheriffs were encouraged to arrest these newly freed citizens for petty crimes. The process that it took to take care of these minor legal problems, however, cost more money than former slaves had. In order to pay off these debts they were sold to businesses, which required physical labor to work for several months. While reading this, I kept thinking that the criminal justice as a form of minority oppression is older and more ingrained in our society than I ever thought. Before the War on Drugs, this system was set up to encourage local law enforcement to act in racist ways to benefit their bottom line. This reality has made me realize how deeply rooted our country’s suppression of minorities runs. In order to begin to disassemble this system, we have to understand the complexity of its history. This reading certainly taught me that I do not know everything.

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