3.5.1 Old South (1877-1920): The Rise of Jim Crow


 

 

Maryland

1867

North Carolina

1876

Delaware

1897

Virginia

1902

Confirmation that slavery abolished

Yes

Yes

No

-- 

Suffrage

White males (black males allowed to vote per U.S. Constitution, 1870)

Literacy requirement

Poll tax

Literacy requirement

Poll tax

Must pay poll tax or must be able to explain Constitution to satisfaction of registrars; exemption for Union and Confederate veterans and their sons

(After 1904) Must have paid poll taxes for 3 years; must fill out registration form and fill out own ballot without assistance; must answer “all questions affecting his qualifications as an elector”; must be able to read and explain Constitution; poll tax waived for veterans

Legislature may limit suffrage in local elections to persons possessing $250 of property

School segregation

--

Required

Required

Required

Black testimony

Allowed

 

--

--

Interracial marriage

--

Prohibited

--

--

 

Narrow windows of fairness:  school segregation

Puitt v. Commissioners of Gaston County – North Carolina, 1886 (94 N.C.709); Riggsbee v. Town of Durham – North Carolina, 1886 (94 N.C. 800)

  • Bourbons in the Old South erased many Reconstruction-era laws, but not all.  Their desire to avoid racial strife, coupled with a fear that turning back the racial clock might provoke renewed Northern intervention, led them to leave basic civil rights in place.  Southern courts did not try to expand those rights, and very few Southern blacks had the resources to challenge rights violations in court; but when they were able to do so, Old South courts enforced the laws with little hesitation. 
  • Puitt and Riggsbee are leading examples.  North Carolina’s 1875 constitution preserved the 1868 Reconstruction constitution’s requirements that taxation be uniform and that the state maintain a public school system.  In 1883, the legislature authorized school districts to hold whites-only elections to approve taxes for new white schools.  The North Carolina supreme court promptly struck down the law in Puitt and Riggsbee:  the court preserved local school boards’ leeway to decide how to allocate funds between schools, but it made clear that tax funds were to be used for all students:  funding black schools with black North Carolinians’ meager taxes would decimate those schools and would violate the constitution.  
 
Narrow windows of fairness:  interracial marriage and jury selection

State v. Ross – North Carolina, 1877 (76 N.C. 242); State v. Peoples – North Carolina, 1902 (42 S.E. 814)

  • Old South courts’ fairly honorable record of adhering to the law even where it conflicted with the racial sentiments of their white constituents was also reflected in Ross and Peoples. 
  • During Reconstruction, some North Carolina interracial couples eloped to South Carolina (where interracial marriage was legal) to get around North Carolina’s miscegenation laws, then returned home.  In Ross, a divided supreme court held reluctantly that the comity doctrine (respecting other states’ laws) required North Carolina to recognize the marriage.  The majority felt that preserving long-standing judicial principles was more important than defending its own state’s racial choices; Justice Edwin Reade, who delivered a passionate dissent, felt differently.
  • At the end of Reconstruction, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution prohibited states from discriminating against blacks in the selection and composition of grand juries and petit (trial) juries.  No Southern state enacted laws explicitly excluding blacks from juries, but many excluded them by means of restrictive voting laws (state laws often limited jury service to those eligible to vote) and by informal practice (see §§ ____).   In Carter v. Texas (1900), the U.S. Supreme Court put Southern states on notice that even indirect and informal methods of excluding blacks from juries could be unconstitutional, thus setting off a duel between the Supreme Court and southern courts that would last for more than half a century (see § ___).   
  • The battle took place mostly in Texas and the Deep South; Old South states were less resistant to change in this area.  In Peoples, decided shortly after the Carter case, North Carolina’s supreme court held that a black criminal defendant had the right to present evidence of informal jury discrimination, and it put state trial courts on notice that even though the burden was on black defendants to show discrimination, the courts must take such claims seriously.
 
 

Narrow windows of fairness:  railroad segregation

Hart v. State – Maryland, 1905 (60 A. 457)

  • Like other Southern states, Old South states enacted railroad segregation laws.  Based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Hall v. DeCuir (1877, it was generally accepted that such laws could not be applied to interstate trains because there were no federal segregation laws; but active enforcement of the laws within Southern borders discouraged many railroads from insisting on enforcement of the laws for interstate trains.
  • In Maryland, the story was a little different.  Control of state government passed back and forth between Democrats and Republicans in the early 1900s, and segregation laws were alternately enacted and repealed.  In Hart, Maryland’s supreme court made clear that it would strictly enforce the rule against interstate segregation, which made segregation a dead letter for most railroad traffic in the state.  The court painted a vivid picture of the commotion that railroad segregation would cause in the border states,  pointing out that variable laws and passage through several different states would force railroads to play a game of musical chairs with their passengers.      
 
 
 Free and happy in his crude prosperity--life in the sand belt of North Carolina
 "Free and happy in his crude prosperity - life in the sand belt of North Carolina" (1903) - courtesy Library of Congress
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
"Is it not obvious it [segregation of taxes] would be subversive of the equality and uniformity recognized in the system of public schools, which looks to a fair participation of all its citizens in the advantages of free education? … The vast bulk of property, yielding the fruits of taxation, belongs to the white people of the State, and very little is held by the emancipated race; and yet the needs of the latter for free tuition, in proportion to its numbers, are as great or greater than the needs of the former.”  - Justice William N.H. Smith, in Puitt
 
 

 

 

“We know, of common knowledge, that prejudices sometimes exist in communities against certain classes, which control the judgment of juries in their deliberations; … race antipathy is as old as historic time, however much some philanthropists and independent thinkers have done or may be doing to eradicate it. … It is incomprehensible that while all white persons entitled to jury trials have only white jurors selected by the authorities to pass upon their conduct and their rights, and the negro has no such privilege, the negro can be said to have equal protection with the white man.” – Justice Walter Montgomery, in Peoples 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“When a passenger enters a car in New York, … if when he reaches the Maryland line, he  must leave that car, and go into another, regardless of the weather, the hour of the day or the night, or the condition of his health, it certainly would … be a great inconvenience, and possible hardship. … In Virginia a law of this kind is in force, while in West Virginia and Pennsylvania there is none … On a train starting from Winchester [Virginia] the passengers must be separated according to their color for six or eight miles, when it reaches the West Virginia line, then through West Virginia they can mingle again until they reach the Potomac, when they would be again separated, and so continue until they reach Mason & Dixon’s line, when they are again permitted to occupy cars without regard to their color.” – Justice Andrew Boyd, in Hart