Will Jim Crow Survive?: This Week in History

White and Jim Crow railcars cartooned by John McCutcheon 1904

Will Jim Crow Survive?: This Week in History

Melina Druga
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A sketch depicting an African-American man being removed from a white rail car
A sketch depicting an African-American man being removed from a white rail car

“‘Shall Jim Crow Prevail?’ The Burning Question,” an AP story in the Dallas Express asked March 29, 1919.  The question followed the bombing of two buildings in Southside Chicago.

In 1896, the Supreme Court decision Plessy vs. Ferguson made separate-but-equal legal.  The question on the minds of many that March was whether the institution would survive as “revelation after revelation of the ramifications of this demon of injustice are coming to light every day.”

The question also came after a railroad policy was revealed.  The policy was that railroad tickets for Pullman cars should not be sold in the north to African-Americans traveling south.  In the days following World War I, the railroads were still under government control.

A Cleveland woman attempting to travel to Hot Springs, Ark., was denied.  Angry, the woman told the ticket agent, “And this is the kind of service our government gives its citizens after our boys have bled and died on the battlefields of France, to make the world a decent place to live in.”

In Cairo, Ill., a train was stopped and African-American passengers were thrown out of their sleeping cars by white “hoodlums.”

“I will spend the rest of my life, if necessary, fighting against this outrageous treatment,” one the evicted passengers said.

Demanding Equal Rights

U.S. Rep. H. I. Emerson Ohio from was receiving both praise and condemnation for making what for 1919 was a bold statement.  He had stated on the floor of Congress that whites and blacks should be given equal justice.

“The colored people in every section of the country must fight for political equality and do it now,” Emerson said. “You should have members in Congress, judges of courts and every office to which you are qualified, without distinction because of race.”

In Texas, the Executive Committee of the Equal Rights Association had set a meeting date for June.  The committee would discuss how African-Americans should serve as trustees over black schools.  Five delegates from each county were scheduled to attend.

Are you surprised the Jim Crow question was raised in a Southern newspaper in 1919?  Why or why not?  Leave a comment below.

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Most kids have an active imagination. My imagination has stayed strong into adulthood, and I’ve funneled that creativity into a successful writing career. I write history, both fiction and nonfiction, because although your school history classes may have been boring, the past is not. My goal is to bring the past to life in all its myriad of colors.
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