Jim Crow

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Thomas D. Rice as Jim Crow

The expression Jim Crow ("Jim, [the] crow") was in the US in the 19th century the name for the stereotype of a dancing, singing black , which was a popular topic, especially in the minstrel shows . The stage character was probably created before 1832 by the white comedian Thomas D. Rice , who appeared as a blackface .

The term was over time in the context of racial discrimination of African Americans used critically and other blacks, especially for the "Jim Crow laws". Today Jim Crow has become synonymous with the comprehensive system of maintaining racial hierarchy in all areas of American society .


In the 19th century "Jim Crow" was the name for the stereotype of a dancing, singing, satisfied with himself and the world, but lazy and sometimes also stealing black, who was a popular topic, especially in the minstrel shows. Corresponding black figures were at least since the early 19th century by several white comedians as so-called blackface represented. The character was shaped by the comedian Thomas D. Rice and his characteristic number Jump Jim Crow , which is based on the folklore of black slaves . They called him a tricky swindler after the intelligent and thieving crow and dedicated the song Jump Jim Crow to him . Based on this meaning, a number of US laws, with which the racial segregation (especially between African Americans and whites) was established from 1877 to 1964 , were called by critics the " Jim Crow Laws ". This period is known as the " Jim Crow Era ".


In the second half of the 19th century, the end of slavery after the American Civil War and the aspirations for emancipation challenged the widespread racial discrimination as well as the traditional racial segregation , especially in the southern states . After the Reconstruction was completed , several states passed laws that legally cemented racial segregation in everyday life. The Supreme Court, the Supreme Court confirmed the 1896 legislation de facto in his decision Plessy v. Ferguson and determined that racial segregation - in the specific case it was about separate railway compartments - is permissible if the facilities to which the whites and blacks are entitled are equivalent. This principle became known as Separate but equal .

These laws and their implementation were in the wake of the American Civil Rights Movement (Civil rights movement) abolished in the 1950s and 1960s gradually or canceled . The 1954 Supreme Court ruled Brown v. Board of Education stated that segregation equality was impossible in practice, and declared that segregation was inadmissible in government-funded schools. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 repealed all remaining Jim Crow laws.

Present according to Cornel West

Cornel West speaks of a new Jim Crow wave that has spread in the United States today; this is not expressed through racial segregation manifested in laws, but through the de facto poorer treatment of African-Americans by the police or in court. As examples, he cites, among other things, the percentage higher conviction rate of African Americans compared to whites for the same offenses and the stop and frisk police practice common in New York City , in which especially African Americans and Latinos without special suspicion stopped on the street and looked for weapons or Drugs being searched.


  • Minstrel show; in: Richard Moody (ed.): Dramas from the American Theater 1762–1909 . Houghton Mifflin, New York 1966.
  • John Hope Franklin : An Illustrated History of Black Americans . Time Life Books, New York 1970, ISBN 0316845965 .
  • Davison Douglas: Jim Crow Moves North: The Battle over Northern School Segregation, 1865-1954. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2005, ISBN 978-0-521-84564-9 .
  • Michelle Alexander : The New Jim Crow. Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness . The New Press, New York 2011.
  • Leslie V. Tischauser: Jim Crow Laws. Greenwood, Westport 2012, ISBN 978-0-313-38608-4 .
  • Stephen A. Berrey: The Jim Crow Routine: Everyday Performances of Race, Civil Rights, and Segregation in Mississippi. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill 2015, ISBN 978-1-4696-2093-0 .
  • Richard Archer: Jim Crow North: The Struggle for Equal Rights in Antebellum New England. Oxford University Press, New York 2017, ISBN 978-0-19-067664-3 .
  • Anders Walker: The Burning House: Jim Crow and the Making of Modern America. Yale University Press, New Haven 2018, ISBN 978-0-300-22398-9 .
  • Douglas J. Flowe: Uncontrollable Blackness: African American Men and Criminality in Jim Crow New York. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill 2020, ISBN 978-1-4696-5572-7 .

Individual evidence

  1. Online text on the website of the so-called Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia on the Ferris State University website (accessed January 30, 2017)
  2. For the lyrics with which Rice celebrated the character he created, see: "Jim Crow" (or "Jump Jim Crow")
  3. Blackface! - Origins of Jump Jim Crow. Retrieved February 12, 2019 .
  4. Heather Casey: Guides: A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States: Jim Crow Era. Retrieved March 17, 2018 .
  5. Interview with Cornel West, the philosophical voice of Afro America.