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Reconstruction to Civil Rights

Looking back at Lincoln's presidency, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the emergence of Jim Crow laws one finds a clear example of the "domino-effect" in our nation's history. Follow that along a bit further and we land in the middle of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's to today's global perspective of inherent human rights. To understand how these dominoes were set in motion we must look at each one in turn. Let's start with the state of America before the Civil War. Sectionalism based on each region's economy (North=industry, South=agriculture, West=agriculture and mining) played a large role in each region's political and economic priorities.


The North held our major port cities, immigrant populations, industries, and railroads networks. The socio-economic structure in the North was divided by financial, ethnic, and religious factors. As more immigrants fled to our country (mostly to the North), more distinction of both geophysical divisions within urban centers and individual identities emerged. Competition for employment in this region was fierce and living conditions for the general masses were often crowded, diseased, and unfit for human occupancy. These cities were often centers based on trade, banking, manufacturing, and the constant movement of people. Shipping was the primary method of transportation for people, natural resources, and manufactured goods for both domestic and international business until technology lead us to the age of the steam engine and railroads. The North was able to secure more natural resources while increasing its domestic markets to include those cities with easy accessibility to the new railroads. Slavery was an issue in the North, with most abolitionists organized in this region and it provided a precarious sanctuary for escaped slaves from the South. This issue of slavery for the general population in the North's Urban centers was one of ambivalence. When one is forced to struggle daily for personal and family survival, it is difficult to sympathize with the plights of others. The main impact slavery had on the North was the price of cotton. Slave labor in the South ensured a lower market price for cotton. The factories that bought this cotton in its raw form was able to purchase more cotton, produce a larger volume of textiles at a cheaper rate, enjoy more profit. The more profit for the textile factories, the more people it could hire and workers might be offered higher wages. (In an ideal world, this would have happened. The reality though was the workers rarely saw a difference in wages. There was too much competition for menial jobs so the factories didn't have to entice workers to stay by raising wages.) Threatening the institute of slavery threatened the profitability of these northern factories.


The South, dependent on agriculture and Northern and international economic info-structures, was build on the institute of slavery. The Spanish initially brought African Slaves to America. The British continued this practice as a Southern plantation system was firmly established as that region's sole method of supporting itself.

  • United States

Who was Jim Crow and how did those laws in Southern states resricting black rights get this name?

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Jim Crow

The Origins and Jim Crow Laws in the North

This set of information is found on the website for the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot and compiled by Henry L. Melton, Editor with the 1898 Wilmington Institute For Education and Research.


The site is a wonderful resource for race relations from less well known sources and adds a much needed perspective on this month's topic of Jim Crow Laws through the use of primary and secondary sources. A jewel in the internet information overload out there!


The Origins of "Jim Crow" Laws:

“One of the strangest things about the career of Jim Crow was that the system was born in the North and reached an advanced age before moving South in force.”

C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow

The "Jim Crow" system is erroneously blamed on the Southern States, as well as erroneously claimed to have begun in 1898. This excerpt is from "The Real Lincoln, A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, Thomas J. DiLorenzo, Forum Books, 2002, pp. 25-28:

(In the early to mid-1800's) "The overwhelming majority of white Northerners cared little about the welfare of the slaves, and treated blacks who lived among them with contempt, ridicule, discrimination and sometimes violence. As Eugene Berwanger wrote in North of Slavery, as of 1860,

"In virtually every phase of existence (in the North), Negroes found themselves systematically seperated from whites. They were either excluded from railway cars, omnibuses, stagecoaches and steamboats, or assigned to special "Jim Crow" sections; they sat, when permitted, in secluded and remote corners of theatres and lecture halls; they could not enter most hotels, restaurants and resorts, except as servants; they prayed in "Negro pews" in the white churches, and if partaking of the sacrement of the Lord's Supper, they waited until the whites had been served the bread and wine. Morover, they were educated in segregated schools, punished in segregated prisons, nursed in segregated hospitals, and buried in segregated cemeteries....

In Democracy in America, Toqueville wrote that "the prejudice of race appears to be stronger in the States that have abolished slavery than in those where it still exists; and nowhere is it so intolerant as in those States where servitude has never been known." Toqueville found that in the North, if laws did not discriminate against blacks in virtually every area of their existence, "popular prejudices" did.

...Discriminatory laws were comon in virtually every Northern State as of 1860. In 1847 Ohioans prohibited the settlement of the 518 emancipated slaves of the Virginia statesman John Randolph. An Ohio congressman threatened that if any blacks tried to cross the border into Ohio, "the banks fo the Ohio River...would be lined with men with muskets on their shoulders to keep off the emancipated slaves."

The only Northern States where blacks were permitted to vote were Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine; and even there they were intimidated out of showing up at the polls. Only 6% of all the "free" blacks in the North lived in these States, however; 94% of all Northern blacks did not enjoy the right to vote as of 1860.

New Jersey and Connecticut actually amended their constitutions in the 1840's to prohibit black suffrage; no such distinctions were made in their original constitutions.

Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull explained that "there is a great aversion in the West---I know it to be so in my State---against having free Negroes come among us. Our people want nothing to do with the Negro."


"Negro Domination" In New York:

The effect of the black "swing vote" was felt early in the nineteenth century in New York, and the Democrat Party (no relation to the 1898 North Carolina Conservatives) there took effective steps to ensure their victory in later elections. While the 1898 conflict's aftermath saw an adjustment in voting qualifications in North Carolina, we can see it was not the first such reaction to black voting habits in this country.

"In 1800 the vote of a single black-dominated ward had won control of New York City for the Federalists, and again in 1813 the votes of three hundred free blacks in New York City swept the Federalists into power, and gave them control of the State legislature. The Democrats took their revenge in 1821, when the new State constitution effectively disenfranchised almost every black voter in New York by requiring that they prove that they owned at least two hundred fifty dollars' worth of property, a restriction not imposed on whites. In 1821 the triumphant Democrats changed the New York State constitution to enfranchise all white males, while erecting barriers to black male voters, so that by 1825 fewer than three hundred blacks out of a total State population of almost thirty thousand, and only sixteen of New York City's more than twelve thousand blacks could actually vote."

(Bound For Canaan, Fergus M. Bordewich, HarperCollins, 2005, page 149.)


Reviewing The Origins:

(The term “Jim Crow” applied to Negroes is lost in obscurity. Thomas D. Rice wrote a song and dance called “Jim Crow” in 1832, and the term became an adjective by 1838. The first example of “Jim Crow law” listed by the Dictionary of American English is dated 1904.)

“Although the Northern and Midwestern States had sent their sons to shed blood to preserve the union and to end slavery, many of them had their own State laws that prohibited blacks from voting or severely qualified their right to do so.

These were not old laws that Northern legislatures had forgotten to repeal; on the same day that (Robert E.) Lee was sworn in as president of Washington College (in September, 1865), Connecticut voters cast their ballots to reject a measure that would have given the vote to the two thousand blacks living within their State. A month later, Michigan did the same thing.”

Nearly two years after (the) beginning of the Reconstruction Committee’s hearings, when Thaddeus Stevens was having his way and seven hundred thousand blacks were registered to vote throughout the South, twelve Northern and Midwestern States would still sharply limit or prohibit voting among their small black populations.

The (congressional) subcommittee appointed to inquire into the loyalty and suitability for readmission into the union of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, was headed by Republican Senator Jacob M. Howard of Michigan. Although many of his fellow Radicals believed in black suffrage as a matter of principle, Howard, whose own State had just rejected a vote for the blacks, felt that the black vote in the South was desirable chiefly for the strength it would add to the Republican Party.”

(Lee, The Last Years, Charles B. Flood, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981, pp. 117-118)

An Abolitionist’s Observations in 1878:

Be sure to read this considering that the date was 1878, and General Wade Hampton had become governor of South Carolina after federal troops were finally removed at the beginning of the Hayes Administration in Washington.

"Suspicions of the South’s intentions toward the freedmen after the withdrawal of federal troops were naturally rife in the North. In 1878, Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson went South to investigate for himself. The report of his findings, published in the Atlantic Monthly, is of particular interest in view of the Colonel’s background…(as) one of the most militant abolitionists.

In Virginia, South Carolina and Florida, the States he visited in 1878, he found “a condition of outward peace” and wondered immediately if there did not lurk beneath it “some covert plan for crushing and re-enslaving the colored race.” If so, he decided, it would “show itself in some personal ill usage of the blacks, in the withdrawal of privileges, in legislation endangering their rights.” But, he reported, “I can assert that carrying with me the eyes of a tolerably suspicious abolitionist, I saw none of these indications.” He had expected to be affronted by contemptuous or abusive treatment of Negroes. “During this trip,” however, he wrote, “I had absolutely no occasion for any such attitude.” Nor was this due to “any cringing demeanor on the part of the blacks, for they show much more manhood than they once did.” He compared the tolerance and acceptance of the Negro in the South on trains and streetcars, at the polls, in the courts and legislatures, in the police force and militia, with attitudes in his native New England and decided that the South came off rather better in the comparison.

“How can we ask more of the States formerly in rebellion,” he demanded, “than that they should be abreast of New England in granting rights and privileges to the colored race?” Six years later (1884), in a review of the situation in the South, Higginson found no reason to change his estimate of 1878."

(The Strange Career of Jim Crow, C. Vann Woodward, Oxford University Press, 1966, pp. 35-36)


Before discussing the advent of “Jim Crow” laws, which many erroneously ascribe to the American South, it is necessary to review the experience of black persons in the Northern States in antebellum times. As the Northern colonies pioneered the slave trade in North America, a perceptive observer has noted that the North in 1860 should be referred to as the slave-trading States; and the South the slave-holding States. The following is drawn from www.slavenorth.com, a website worth visiting for more information on slavery north of Mason and Dixon’s line.

Northern “Jim Crow”

The northern States pioneered viciously discriminatory black codes long before they existed in any Southern State. The Revised Code of Indiana stated in 1862 that “Negroes and mulattos are not allowed to come into the State”, forbade the consummation of legal contracts with the same, imposed a $500. fine on anyone who employed a black person, forbade interracial marriage and forbade blacks from testifying in court against a white person. In Illinois, the land of Lincoln, added almost identical restrictions in 1848 as did Oregon in 1857. Most northern States in the 1860’s did not permit immigration by blacks or, if they did, required them to post a $1000. bond that would be confiscated if

they behaved improperly. Noted abolitionist and Senator Lyman Turnbull of Illinois, a close confidant of Lincoln stated that “our people want nothing to do with the Negro” and was a strong supporter of the Illinois black codes.


Blacks In The North:

In 1790, the first U.S. census counted 13,059 free blacks in New England, with another 13,975 in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Strictly speaking, none of them was "free," for their lives were proscribed politically, economically, and socially. While white indentured servants often became respected members of their communities after their indentures ended, free blacks in the North rarely had the opportunity to rise above the level of common laborers and washerwomen, and as early as 1760 they had formed ghettoes in the grimy alleys and waterfront districts of Boston and other Northern towns.

In colonial times, Northern freemen, like slaves, were required to carry passes when traveling in some places, and they were forbidden to own property in others. Although taxed in New England, they could not vote there in early colonial times, though they could in the plantation colonies.[2] Free blacks were required to work on roads a certain number of days a year in Massachusetts, at the discretion of the local selectmen. They could only use ferries under certain conditions in New England. In South Kingstown, Rhode Island, they could not own horses or sheep. In Boston, they could not carry a cane unless they were unable to walk without one.

Pennsylvania colony's “Act for the better Regulation of Negroes” set penalties for free blacks who harbored runaway slaves or received property stolen from masters that were potentially much higher than those applied to whites. If the considerable fines could not be paid, the justices had the power to order a free black person put into servitude. Under other provisions of the act, free Negroes who married whites were to be sold into slavery for life; for mere fornication or adultery involving blacks and whites, the penalty for the black person was to be sold as a servant for seven years. Whites in such cases faced different or lighter punishment. By a law of 1718, a black man convicted of the rape of a white woman was to be castrated. Throughout Pennsylvania colony, the children of free blacks, without exception, were bound out by the local justices of the peace until age 24 (if male) or 21 (if female). All in all, the "free" blacks of colonial Pennsylvania led severely circumscribed lives; they had no control even over their own family arrangements, and they could be put back into servitude for "laziness" or petty crimes, at the mercy of the local authorities.

Having set controls on their black residents, the Northern states busied themselves in passing laws to make sure no more blacks moved within their boundaries. These were not elitist actions. The pressure for total exclusion came from the working class whites, struggling for a little bargaining power with the shopowners and fearful of inexpensive black competition that could drive down wages. New Jersey in 1786 had prohibited blacks from entering the state to settle, because "sound public policy requires that importation be prohibited in order that white labour may be protected." Connecticut's legislature, making the same prohibition in 1784, had declared that it did so because "the increase of slaves is injurious to the poor."

As far back as 1717, citizens of New London, Connecticut, in a town meeting voted their objection to free blacks living in the town or owning land anywhere in the colony. That year, the colonial assembly passed a law in accordance with this sentiment, prohibiting free blacks or mulattoes from residing in any town in the colony. It also forbid them to buy land or go into business without the consent of the town. The provisions were retroactive, so that if any black person had managed to buy land, the deed was rendered void, and a black resident of a town, however long he had been there, was now subject to prosecution at the discretion of the selectmen. Massachusetts in 1788 prescribed flogging for non-resident blacks who stayed more than two months. Less than four months after its Congressmen voted against the restrictions on black settlement in the Missouri Compromise, Massachusetts set up a legislative committee to investigate such legislation for its own sake. From 1813 to 1852, Pennsylvania was constantly debating exclusion, under pressure of petitions from the counties along the Mason-Dixon Line.

Like the black codes of the South and Midwest in the 19th century, enforcement of Northern colonial race laws was selective, and their real value lay in harassment and discouragement of further settlement, and in being a constant reminder to free blacks that their existence was precarious and dependent on white toleration. Across the North, such laws were the sword hung above the heads of a whole black population: Step out of line, make one false move, and you'll be shipped out, or sold into slavery. And you don't even have the right to face your (white) accuser in court (as you would in, say, ante-bellum Louisiana). Anti-sodomy laws still are on the books in some states; their defenders point out that they are rarely invoked, but that does not make their potential targets feel safer living under them. It gets to the gist of what makes slavery itself, however comfortable, always worse than freedom, however miserable. Many Southern slaves, perhaps the mass of them, lived better than most northern industrial laborers, when you quantify their work requirements, nutrition, and life expectancy. But the slave could be, at any moment, and with no recourse, stripped, beaten, whipped, violated, and sold. That “could be” embraces all the evil of slavery.

So the Negro [in the North] is free, but he cannot share the rights, pleasures, labors, griefs, or even the tomb of him whose equal he has been declared; there is nowhere where he can meet him, neither in life nor in death.

In the South, where slavery still exists, less trouble is taken to keep the Negro apart: they sometimes share the labors and the pleasures of the white men; people are prepared to mix with them to some extent; legislation is more harsh against them, but customs are more tolerant and gentle.[3]

The Northwest:

The new states that entered the union in the North after the end of slavery were just as concerned with their racial purity as the old ones. To do so, they turned to an old practice in the North: the exclusion law. Slaves could not be brought into the Northwest Territories, under the ordinance of 1787, but slaves already there were to continue in bondage. Once states began to emerge from the old territories, most of them explicitly barred blacks or permitted them only if they could prove their freedom and post bond. Ohio offered the first example, and those that followed her into the union followed her lead on race.

Slavery was abolished in Ohio by the state's original constitution (1802). But at the same time, Ohio, with slave-state Kentucky across the river, aggressively barred black immigration. When Virginian John Randolph's 518 slaves were emancipated and a plan was hatched to settle them in southern Ohio, the population rose up in indignation. An Ohio congressman warned that if the attempt were made, “the banks of the Ohio ... would be lined with men with muskets on their shoulders to keep off the emancipated slaves.”[4] Even the abolitionists in this region pitched their appeal, in part, to the desire for a homogenous (white) states. They claimed that attempts by blacks to immigrate into the state would end when slavery ended and blacks had no more cause to flee the South for “the uncongenial North.”

According to historian Leon F. Litwack, Ohio “provided a classic example of how anti-immigration legislation could be invoked to harass Negro residents.”[5] The state had enacted Black Laws in 1804 and 1807 that compelled blacks entering the state to post bond of $500 guaranteeing good behavior and to produce a court paper as proof that they were free. “No extensive effort was made to enforce the bond requirement until 1829, when the rapid increase of the Negro population alarmed Cincinnati. The city authorities announced that the Black Laws would be enforced and ordered Negroes to comply or leave within thirty days.”

Citizens of the city's “Little Africa” -- largely a ghetto of wooden shacks owned by whites -- appealed for a delay, and sent a delegation to Canada to try to find a place to settle there. But if the authorities were willing to offer more time, the Ohio mob was not, and whites in packs began to roam through the black neighborhoods, burning and beating. The delegation came back from Upper Canada with the offer of a safe home from the governor. “Tell the Republicans on your side of the line that we royalists do not know men by their color. Should you come to us you will be entitled to all the privileges of the rest of His Majesty's subjects.” About half of the city's 2,200 blacks left, most of them apparently going to Canada. The proponents of strict enforcement of the Black Laws then discovered that they had driven off “the sober, honest, industrious, and useful portion of the colored population,” and their absence had lifted “much of the moral restraint ... on the idle and indolent, as well as the profligate” among the rest.[6]

Blacks petitioned against the exclusion laws, but the state legislature denied they had the right to petition the government "for any purpose whatsoever." Finally, after the Free Soil Party gained a degree of power in the state in 1849, a compromise partially repealed the Black Laws, ending the bond-posting requirement. It was a rare, if not unique, instance of a Northern state loosening its restrictions on black settlement.

The northern tier of the state had been settled by good stock from southern New England and to a degree shared in the liberal and abolitionist religion and politics of that region. But when it came to an issue like integrating schools, the people's plain feelings revealed themselves. When the public school system spread to Ohio, citizens and legislators alike objected to educating blacks from public funds, in part because it would tend to encourage other blacks to come there and settle. In the end, the state, like Pennsylvania, required its district school directors to set up separate facilities for black and white children. The Ohio courts upheld this segregation in 1850 and 1859, rejecting the idea of integration and declaring that, “whether consistent with true philanthropy or not ... there ... still is an almost invincible repugnance to such communion and fellowship.”

Yet segregation was not enough for many Ohio whites, and they insulted, opposed, and sometimes literally attacked private schools set up to teach black children. Whites destroyed newly opened schools for blacks in Zanesville in 1837 and Troy in 1840. Similar mass resistance took place in Vermont and Connecticut.

In the 1830s, Oberlin College decided to open its doors to black students. As soon as the plan became known "panic and despair" seized students, faculty, and town residents. The chief proponent of the plan hastened to assure them that he had no intention to let the place get “full up with filthy stupid negroes,” but the controversy continued. The board of trustees tried to table the plan, but by now the abolitionists were aroused and would accept no retreat. In the end, in 1835, the trustees punted the decision to the faculty, which was known to favor black admissions.

The change threatened the very existence of the college. From New England, the quarter from which much of the school's student body and money came, the college's financial agent wrote predicting disaster. “For as soon as your darkies begin to come in in any considerable numbers, unless they are completely separated ... the whites will begin to leave -- and at length your Institute will change colour. Why not have a black Institution, Dyed in the wool -- and let Oberlin be?”[7] The college survived integration, mostly because before 1860 only a token handful of blacks was admitted. In 1860, the figure for black students was 4 percent. Still, the school was shockingly integrated by Northern standards.

A Massachusetts girl wrote home from the school in 1852, assuring her family, “that we don't have to kiss the Niggars nor speak to them,” and only about six “pure Niggars” were at the school, the rest looked like mulattoes, and anyway they dressed better than most of the white students.

Both Indiana (1816) and Illinois (1818) abolished slavery by their constitutions. And both followed the Ohio policy of trying to prevent black immigration by passing laws requiring blacks who moved into the state to produce legal documents verifying that they were free and posting bond to guarantee their good behavior. The bond requirements ranged as high as $1,000, which was prohibitive for a black American in those days. Anti-immigration legislation passed in Illinois in 1819, 1829, and 1853. In Indiana, such laws were enacted in 1831 and 1852. Michigan Territory passed such a law in 1827; Iowa Territory passed one in 1839 and Iowa enacted another in 1851 after it became a state. Oregon Territory passed such a law in 1849.[8] Blacks who violated the law faced punishments that included advertisement and sale at public auction (Illinois, 1853).

The evidence seems to support the theory that these rules were not uniformly enforced. But they were invoked against "troublesome" black residents, or they could be used against whole communities, as in Cincinnati, when white citizens found the increase in black population had reached an unacceptable level. They served blacks as grinding reminders of apartheid intentions and legal subjugation, and they offered white authorities and Northern mobs a cloak for harassment and violence.

Exclusion ordinances often were advanced by self-professed friends of the freemen who foresaw only tragedy in attempts of the races to share the land. Robert Dale Owen, speaking in Indiana in 1850, asked if any decent person desired “the continuance among us of a race to whom we are not willing to accord the most common protection against outrage and death.” The writers in such cases seem honestly troubled by the plight of free blacks. The rhetoric hardly is an exaggeration: during the constitutional debate in the state that year, one speaker had frankly acknowledged, “It would be better to kill them off at once, if there is no other way to get rid of them. ... We know how the Puritans did with the Indians, who were infinitely more magnanimous and less impudent than the colored race.”

Not content with mere legislation, Illinois, Indiana, and Oregon had anti-immigration provisions built into their constitutions. In Illinois (1848), in clause-by-clause voting, this clause was approved by voters by more than 2 to 1. Most of the opposition to it came from the northern counties of the state, where blacks were few. In Indiana (1851), it was approved by a larger margin than the constitution itself. In Oregon (1857), the vote for it was 8 to 1. The Illinois act stayed on the books until 1865. The Black Codes dealt with more than just settlement. Oregon forbid blacks to hold real estate, make contracts, or bring lawsuits. Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, and California prohibited them from testifying in cases where a white man was a party.

Indiana's anti-immigration rule was challenged in the case of a black man convicted for bringing a black woman into the state to marry her. The state Supreme Court upheld the conviction, noting that, “The policy of the state is ... clearly evolved. It is to exclude any further ingress of negroes, and to remove those already among us as speedily as possible.” There was no legal segregation in Indiana's public schools: none was necessary. The white citizens of the state would keep the schools racially pure more thoroughly than any legal provision could. A court upheld the white-only Indiana public schools in 1850, finding that, in the eyes of the state, “black children were deemed unfit associates of whites, as school companions.”

Wisconsin was one of the first states to establish black suffrage, but this was accomplished only through a Supreme Court decision after suffrage had been defeated repeatedly at the polls. Like many in the North, Wisconsin residents disliked slavery, but they also felt no desire to integrate with blacks, whom they felt were inferior. A committee of the 1846 statehood convention proposed an article granting suffrage to “white citizens of the United States,” foreign residents who intended to become citizens and certain Indians. A few idealists urged that the word “white” be deleted, but they were opposed by the majority. The convention ultimately agreed to submit to the voters a separate article allowing black suffrage. The 1846 constitution was voted down for reasons unrelated to suffrage; but the suffrage article also was defeated decisively, with only 34 percent in favor.

The 1847-48 constitutional convention resolved the suffrage issue by agreeing that the Legislature could allow black suffrage at any time, provided that the law was "submitted to the vote of the people at a general election, and approved by a majority of all the votes cast at such election." The compromise appealed to the delegates because a vote for it could be defended as a vote for popular sovereignty rather than for black equality or abolitionism. The first state Legislature promptly passed a black suffrage law and authorized a referendum, which took place in 1849. The law was approved by a vote of 5,265 to 4,075. However, fewer than half of all voters casting ballots at the election voted on the suffrage issue; therefore, the law had failed. The Legislature passed new suffrage laws in 1857 and again in 1865. The voters rejected both laws, although the pro-suffrage vote increased from 41 percent in 1857 to 46 percent in 1865.[9]

When the Civil War ended, 19 of 24 Northern states did not allow blacks to vote. Nowhere did they serve on juries before 1860. They could not give testimony in 10 states, and were prevented from assembling in two. Several western states had prohibited free blacks from entering the state. Blacks who entered Illinois and stayed more than 10 days were guilty of "high misdemeanor." Even those that didn't exclude blacks debated doing so and had discriminatory ordinances on the local level.


  • Lorenzo Johnston Greene, “The Negro in Colonial New England, 1620-1776,” N.Y.: Columbia University Press, 1942, p.302.
    2. free blacks voted in Virginia until 1723, in North Carolina until 1715, in South Carolina until 1701, and in Georgia until 1754. See Albert E. McKinley, “Suffrage Franchise in the Thirteen English Colonies in America,” Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1905.
    3. Alexis De Tocqueville, “Democracy in America,” transl. George Lawrence, Harper & Row, 1966, p.343.
    4. “Congressional Globe,” 30 Cong. 1 Sess., appendix, p.727.
    5. Leon F. Litwack, “North of Slavery,” Chicago, 1961, p.72.
    6. “Cincinnati Gazette,” Aug. 17, 1829.
    7. Robert S. Fletcher, “History of Oberlin College,” 1943, vol. II, p.523.
    8. Henry W. Farnam, “Chapters in the History of Social Legislation in the United States to 1860,” Washington: Carnegie Institution, 1938, pp.219-20.
    9. John G. Gregory, “Negro Suffrage in Wisconsin,” Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Art and Letters, XI (1898), pp. 94-101.


The Negro in Indiana and Pennsylvania:

(From Bound For Canaan, The Underground Railroad, Fergus M. Bordewich)

There were not many African Americans in Indiana at this time (1822), perhaps fewer than three thousand, and they were not made to feel welcome. Before Statehood, Governor William Henry Harrison had proposed legalizing slavery in the territory, and in later years there were repeated attempts to exclude blacks entirely.

A typical memorial to the territorial authorities from settlers in Harrison County stated “we are opposed to the introduction of slaves or free Negroes in any shape. Our corn houses, kitchens, smoke houses…may no doubt be robbed and our wives, children and daughters may, and no doubt will be, insulted and abused by those Africans. We do not wished to be saddled with them in any way.” Although immigration was not in fact restricted, the laws did discriminate harshly against blacks. Voting was limited to white males. Blacks were barred from testifying in court cases involving whites, and their children excluded from public schools. After 1831, blacks wishing to settle in Indiana would be required to register with authorities and to post a bond as a guarantee of good behavior. (pp. 92-93)

Even in Quaker communities of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois all discouraged even the entry of free blacks. Only a few years earlier, the State Supreme Court of New Jersey had declared it “a settled rule…that the color black is the proof of slavery.” (page 112)


Color prejudice was ingrained even among many who professed opposition to slavery. Quakers rarely invited blacks to join the Society of Friends, and (Quaker abolitionist) Isaac Hopper was considered remarkable for his willingness to sit down with them at dinner. In 1828, a white mob gathered outside a dance hall (in Philadelphia) where a fancy-dress African American ball was taking place and assaulted elegantly dressed women as they stepped from coaches, throwing some of them into the gutter. The following year, a full-scale race riot occurred in Cedar Ward, leaving many blacks dead and causing terrible damage to the homes and property of black families who could ill-afford the losses. (page 135)

…In 1825, Philadelphians were shocked to learn that a kidnapping ring had operated in the city for years, luring black children as young as nine and ten onto sloops moored in the Delaware River, and shipping them to the Deep South where they were sold. (page 135)

As early as the turn of the century (1800), several Southern slave masters who wished to emancipate their slaves had brought them to Columbia (Pennsylvania) to be freed, fifty-six in a single batch in 1804, a hundred in another group the following year. Slave catchers and kidnappers followed. (page 137)


Sources and Recommended Reading:


North of Slavery, The Negro in the Free States, 1790-1860. Leon F. Litwack

University of Chicago Press, 1960


The Strange Career of Jim Crow, C. Vann Woodward, Oxford University Press, 1966


The Liberty Line, The Legend of the Underground Railroad. Larry Gara.

University of Kentucky Press, 1961


Bound For Canaan; The Underground Railroad. Fergus M. Bordewich

Amistad Press, 2005


The History of Negro Servitude in Illinois. N. Dwight Harris.

Haskell House Publishers, 1969



Jim Crow Laws (Examples)

From the 1880s into the 1960s, a majority of American states enforced segregation through "Jim Crow" laws (so called after a black character in minstrel shows). From Delaware to California, and from North Dakota to Texas, many states (and cities, too) could impose legal punishments on people for consorting with members of another race. The most common types of laws forbade intermarriage and ordered business owners and public institutions to keep their black and white clientele separated.

Here is a sampling of laws from various states.

Nurses No person or corporation shall require any white female nurse to nurse in wards or rooms in hospitals, either public or private, in which negro men are placed. Alabama

Buses All passenger stations in this state operated by any motor transportation company shall have separate waiting rooms or space and separate ticket windows for the white and colored races. Alabama

Railroads The conductor of each passenger train is authorized and required to assign each passenger to the car or the division of the car, when it is divided by a partition, designated for the race to which such passenger belongs. Alabama

Restaurants It shall be unlawful to conduct a restaurant or other place for the serving of food in the city, at which white and colored people are served in the same room, unless such white and colored persons are effectually separated by a solid partition extending from the floor upward to a distance of seven feet or higher, and unless a separate entrance from the street is provided for each compartment. Alabama

Pool and Billiard Rooms It shall be unlawful for a negro and white person to play together or in company with each other at any game of pool or billiards. Alabama

Toilet Facilities, Male Every employer of white or negro males shall provide for such white or negro males reasonably accessible and separate toilet facilities. Alabama

Intermarriage The marriage of a person of Caucasian blood with a Negro, Mongolian, Malay, or Hindu shall be null and void. Arizona

Intermarriage All marriages between a white person and a negro, or between a white person and a person of negro descent to the fourth generation inclusive, are hereby forever prohibited. Florida

Cohabitation Any negro man and white woman, or any white man and negro woman, who are not married to each other, who shall habitually live in and occupy in the nighttime the same room shall each be punished by imprisonment not exceeding twelve (12) months, or by fine not exceeding five hundred ($500.00) dollars. Florida

Education The schools for white children and the schools for negro children shall be conducted separately. Florida

Juvenile Delinquents There shall be separate buildings, not nearer than one fourth mile to each other, one for white boys and one for negro boys. White boys and negro boys shall not, in any manner, be associated together or worked together. Florida

Mental Hospitals The Board of Control shall see that proper and distinct apartments are arranged for said patients, so that in no case shall Negroes and white persons be together. Georgia

Intermarriage It shall be unlawful for a white person to marry anyone except a white person. Any marriage in violation of this section shall be void. Georgia

Barbers No colored barber shall serve as a barber [to] white women or girls. Georgia

Burial The officer in charge shall not bury, or allow to be buried, any colored persons upon ground set apart or used for the burial of white persons. Georgia

Restaurants All persons licensed to conduct a restaurant, shall serve either white people exclusively or colored people exclusively and shall not sell to the two races within the same room or serve the two races anywhere under the same license. Georgia

Amateur Baseball It shall be unlawful for any amateur white baseball team to play baseball on any vacant lot or baseball diamond within two blocks of a playground devoted to the Negro race, and it shall be unlawful for any amateur colored baseball team to play baseball in any vacant lot or baseball diamond within two blocks of any playground devoted to the white race. Georgia

Parks It shall be unlawful for colored people to frequent any park owned or maintained by the city for the benefit, use and enjoyment of white persons...and unlawful for any white person to frequent any park owned or maintained by the city for the use and benefit of colored persons. Georgia

Wine and Beer All persons licensed to conduct the business of selling beer or wine...shall serve either white people exclusively or colored people exclusively and shall not sell to the two races within the same room at any time. Georgia

Reform Schools The children of white and colored races committed to the houses of reform shall be kept entirely separate from each other. Kentucky

Circus Tickets All circuses, shows, and tent exhibitions, to which the attendance of...more than one race is invited or expected to attend shall provide for the convenience of its patrons not less than two ticket offices with individual ticket sellers, and not less than two entrances to the said performance, with individual ticket takers and receivers, and in the case of outside or tent performances, the said ticket offices shall not be less than twenty-five (25) feet apart. Louisiana

Housing Any person...who shall rent any part of any such building to a negro person or a negro family when such building is already in whole or in part in occupancy by a white person or white family, or vice versa when the building is in occupancy by a negro person or negro family, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of not less than twenty-five ($25.00) nor more than one hundred ($100.00) dollars or be imprisoned not less than 10, or more than 60 days, or both such fine and imprisonment in the discretion of the court. Louisiana

The Blind The board of trustees shall...maintain a separate building...on separate ground for the admission, care, instruction, and support of all blind persons of the colored or black race. Louisiana

Intermarriage All marriages between a white person and a negro, or between a white person and a person of negro descent, to the third generation, inclusive, or between a white person and a member of the Malay race; or between the negro a nd a member of the Malay race; or between a person of Negro descent, to the third generation, inclusive, and a member of the Malay race, are forever prohibited, and shall be void. Maryland

Railroads All railroad companies and corporations, and all persons running or operating cars or coaches by steam on any railroad line or track in the State of Maryland, for the transportation of passengers, are hereby required to provide separate cars or coaches for the travel and transportation of the white and colored passengers. Maryland

Education Separate schools shall be maintained for the children of the white and colored races. Mississippi

Promotion of Equality Any person...who shall be guilty of printing, publishing or circulating printed, typewritten or written matter urging or presenting for public acceptance or general information, arguments or suggestions in favor of social equality or of intermarriage between whites and negroes, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to fine or not exceeding five hundred (500.00) dollars or imprisonment not exceeding six (6) months or both. Mississippi

Intermarriage The marriage of a white person with a negro or mulatto or person who shall have one-eighth or more of negro blood, shall be unlawful and void. Mississippi

Hospital Entrances There shall be maintained by the governing authorities of every hospital maintained by the state for treatment of white and colored patients separate entrances for white and colored patients and visitors, and such entrances shall be used by the race only for which they are prepared. Mississippi

Prisons The warden shall see that the white convicts shall have separate apartments for both eating and sleeping from the negro convicts. Mississippi

Education Separate free schools shall be established for the education of children of African descent; and it shall be unlawful for any colored child to attend any white school, or any white child to attend a colored school. Missouri

Intermarriage All marriages between...white persons and negroes or white persons and Mongolians...are prohibited and declared absolutely void...No person having one-eighth part or more of negro blood shall be permitted to marry any white person, nor shall any white person be permitted to marry any negro or person having one-eighth part or more of negro blood. Missouri

Education Separate rooms [shall] be provided for the teaching of pupils of African descent, and [when] said rooms are so provided, such pupils may not be admitted to the school rooms occupied and used by pupils of Caucasian or other descent. New Mexico

Textbooks Books shall not be interchangeable between the white and colored schools, but shall continue to be used by the race first using them. North Carolina

Libraries The state librarian is directed to fit up and maintain a separate place for the use of the colored people who may come to the library for the purpose of reading books or periodicals. North Carolina

Militia The white and colored militia shall be separately enrolled, and shall never be compelled to serve in the same organization.No organization of colored troops shall be permitted where white troops are available, and while white permitted to be organized, colored troops shall be under the command of white officers. North Carolina

Transportation The...Utilities Commission...is empowered and directed to require the establishment of separate waiting rooms at all stations for the white and colored races. North Carolina

Teaching Any instructor who shall teach in any school, college or institution where members of the white and colored race are received and enrolled as pupils for instruction shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof, shall be fined in any sum not less than ten dollars ($10.00) nor more than fifty dollars ($50.00) for each offense. Oklahoma

Fishing, Boating, and Bathing The [Conservation] Commission shall have the right to make segregation of the white and colored races as to the exercise of rights of fishing, boating and bathing. Oklahoma

Mining The baths and lockers for the negroes shall be separate from the white race, but may be in the same building. Oklahoma

Telephone Booths The Corporation Commission is hereby vested with power and authority to require telephone companies...to maintain separate booths for white and colored patrons when there is a demand for such separate booths. That the Corporation Commission shall determine the necessity for said separate booths only upon complaint of the people in the town and vicinity to be served after due hearing as now provided by law in other complaints filed with the Corporation Commission. Oklahoma

Lunch Counters No persons, firms, or corporations, who or which furnish meals to passengers at station restaurants or station eating houses, in times limited by common carriers of said passengers, shall furnish said meals to white and colored passengers in the same room, or at the same table, or at the same counter. South Carolina

Child Custody It shall be unlawful for any parent, relative, or other white person in this State, having the control or custody of any white child, by right of guardianship, natural or acquired, or otherwise, to dispose of, give or surrender such white child permanently into the custody, control, maintenance, or support, of a negro. South Carolina

Libraries Any white person of such county may use the county free library under the rules and regulations prescribed by the commissioners court and may be entitled to all the privileges thereof. Said court shall make proper provision for the negroes of said county to be served through a separate branch or branches of the county free library, which shall be administered by [a] custodian of the negro race under the supervision of the county librarian. Texas

Education [The County Board of Education] shall provide schools of two kinds; those for white children and those for colored children. Texas

Theaters Every person...operating...any public hall, theatre, opera house, motion picture show or any place of public entertainment or public assemblage which is attended by both white and colored persons, shall separate the white race and the colored race and shall set apart and designate...certain seats therein to be occupied by white persons and a portion thereof , or certain seats therein, to be occupied by colored persons. Virginia

Railroads The conductors or managers on all such railroads shall have power, and are hereby required, to assign to each white or colored passenger his or her respective car, coach or compartment. If the passenger fails to disclose his race, the conductor and managers, acting in good faith, shall be the sole judges of his race. Virginia

Intermarriage All marriages of white persons with Negroes, Mulattos, Mongolians, or Malaya hereafter contracted in the State of Wyoming are and shall be illegal and void. Wyoming


Last Updated: January 5, 1998


Created by Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site Interpretive Staff.

  • Southern United States
  • 1880

Abraham Lincoln and the Issue of Slavery

"If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that … I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty, and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men, everywhere, could be free."     
    -- Abraham Lincoln    

    In the quote above, taken from a letter written in July 1862 to Horace Greeley, the influential editor of the New York Tribune, Abraham Lincoln responded to criticism by Greeley that implied that Lincoln's administration lacked direction and resolve. As a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation lay in his desk drawer, Lincoln’s response revealed that at the height of the Civil War his primary concern was preserving the Union, not freeing the slaves

Contributor: HeatherBlythe
Created: March 25, 2008 · Modified: October 28, 2012

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