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Jim Crow

Fall 2010 Term Paper The Strange Career of Jim Crow by Van Woodward is based on the time period surrounding the Civil Rights Movement. This book is an accurate account of events that occurred during this time. It shows how the 1896 US Supreme Court Ruling affected blacks and the obstacles they faced to overcome. This book shows how the rights of African Americans have evolved over time. Van Woodward did an excellent job illustrating the events of history with The Strange Career of Jim Crow and created a factual account of history that is still used in classrooms today.

The historical context in which this book was written surrounds the events that took place during the Civil Rights Movement. There were several influential legal cases involving race relations. One prominent court case was Plessy vs. Ferguson. This 1896 court case decided that states had the legal right to segregate public facilities. In 1899, the court ruled that schools could only be erected for white children. Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas was one of the most important decisions made by the US Supreme Court.

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This ruling on May 17, 1954 overturned Plessy vs. Ferguson. This court case ruled that the segregation of public schools was unconstitutional. Van Woodward writes in this book “The court’s decision of 17 May was the momentous and far reaching for the century in civil rights. It reversed a constitutional trend started long before Plessy vs. Ferguson and it marked the beginning of the end of Jim Crowe” (Van Woodward, 147). The historical evidence cited by Van Woodward was an accurate account of events. He used many resources helping him to write this unbiased factual book.

Examples he used throughout this book include The Reconstruction of Southern Education, The Schools and the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and The Ideology of White Supremacy are among the many sources that Van Woodward consulted. The Strange Career of Jim Crow by Van Woodward is an accurate account of history. It is still used today in history classes for educational purposes. Martin Luther King Jr. referred to this book by Van Woodward as “the historical bible of the civil rights movement” because it spoke about the difficulties of race relations and brought attention to what blacks went through to get to where they are today.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a respected figure and had a dream for equality among blacks and whites. King liked the message that this book provided. Van Woodward writes “striking incongruities appeared between the needs and moods of the black ghetto and the goals and strategies of the civil rights crusade, as typified by the leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. , and voiced in his lyrical dream” (Van Woodward, 193). In 1896, the court case of Plessy vs. Ferguson ruled that the states had the right to legally segregate public facilities. This court ruling fueled the fire of Southerners in regards to race relations, leading to the Jim Crow laws.

These laws went as far as to say blacks could not cut a white person’s hair, drink from the same water fountain as a white person, and established a test for blacks to take prior to getting a ballot. The Strange Career of Jim Crow is a book that opens reader’s eyes to obstacles that black people faced during this period of time. Van Woodward does an excellent job in this book illustrating history. He provides factual and vivid examples of the racism that blacks faced in their fight for equality. It is obvious that this is a well written book in that it is still being published after all these years.

In conclusion, The Strange Career of Jim Crow examines the South after the Civil War had ended and the race relations during this time period. This book illustrates the challenges faced throughout history and shows how blacks have many more rights than they did right after the Civil War. Van Woodward wrote an educational book that will be used for many more years to come. It is a book about America’s past and future. As many people say, history has a way of repeating itself. Works Cited Woodward, C. Vann. The Strange Career of Jim Crow. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc. 2002


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