40 pages 1 hour read

C. Vann Woodward

The Strange Career of Jim Crow

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1955

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Chapter 2Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 2 Summary: “Forgotten Alternatives”

Chapter 2 focuses on the fluid race relations in the post-Reconstruction South. Following the establishment of “Home Rule”—or local governments run by local citizens—there was no immediate shift to expand or universalize segregation. Segregation and discrimination existed in both legal and extra-legal contexts. However, its implementation was uneven and fluid. Churches, the military, hospitals, schools, and asylums maintained a separation of the races. Sometimes this separation was enforced by laws; in other cases it was informal and enforced by convention.

Woodward describes a period of racial violence and tension in the 1880s and 1890s, when rates of lynchings become alarmingly high, attaining “the most staggering proportions ever reached in the history of that crime” (91). White supremacists advocating segregation and disenfranchisement slowly began to establish their influence over Southern life.

At the same time, African Americans remembered the hopes and promises of Reconstruction. Many of those laws were still on the books: African Americans voted, were appointed or elected to offices, and used the legal system to address their concerns. For example:

every session of the Virginia General Assembly from 1869 to 1891 contained Negro members. Between 1876 and 1894 North Carolinians elected fifty-two Negroes to the lower house of their state legislature, and between 1878 and 1902 forty-seven Negroes served in the South Carolina General Assembly (108).