When All in the Family made its big splash back in the 1970s I couldn’t see why it was supposed to be a comedy when it reflected the home I grew up in so closely. I looked for cameras outside our windows. Yet I bought into MLK’s vision of a color-blind America. I wanted and still want to see a land where people are judged by the content of their character instead of by any arbitrary circumstances, skin color, social class, nationality, or anything else.
In the segregated South and the bigoted North of my youth I could see the injustice and I applauded the opportunity to strive for a society built upon the best and the brightest. After generations of trying to get there all I can ask is “Are we there yet?” And if the answer is no after the expenditure of trillions of dollars and after the imposition of quotas, set asides, busing, and other court mandated absurdities when are we going to be there?
I say absurdities because the very idea that a government that seeks to end all discrimination based on skin color uses guidelines and policies based on skin color is patently absurd. Or at least it would have been considered so before we went through the looking glass from a constitutionally limited government of the people by the people and for the people to an all-powerful regime with an imperial president ruling by decree and a black robed priesthood able to make laws like the almighty writing on stone tablets.
Looking at the current political environment in America as shaped by generations of revisionist History and perpetually repeating the Democrat Party line by the Corporations Once Known as the Mainstream Media anyone could easily believe the lie that the Democrat Party has always been the champion of Civil Rights fighting the good fight against the reactionary Republicans. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Before the Civil War the Democrat Party was the party of slavery fighting tooth and nail to block any restriction on the spread of that foul institution. It was the Democrats who led the South out of the Union and who dominated the Confederacy the entire time it fought to preserve its peculiar institution. After four terrible years of war the Republicans imposed the ratification of the Civil War Amendments (13th, 14th & 15th) as a precondition for the defeated southern States to re-enter the Union as full members as opposed to conquered territories. The Civil War Amendments protected equality for emancipated slaves by banning slavery, defining citizenship, and ensuring voting rights.
These federally imposed measures worked as long as the North kept an occupying army in the Southern States during Reconstruction. The freed slaves were able to vote and they responded by electing Republicans to power in the South. During this time the newly freed slaves made many advances in education and economics as well as in political liberty throughout the South.
How did Reconstruction end?
According to American History:
As time passed, it became more and more obvious that the problems of the South were not being solved by harsh laws and continuing rancor against former Confederates. In May 1872, Congress passed a general Amnesty Act, restoring full political rights to all but about 500 Confederate sympathizers.
Gradually Southern states began electing members of the Democratic Party into office, ousting so-called carpetbagger governments and intimidating blacks from voting or attempting to hold public office. By 1876 the Republicans remained in power in only three Southern states. As part of the bargaining that resolved the disputed presidential elections that year in favor of Rutherford B. Hayes, the Republicans promised to end Radical Reconstruction, thereby leaving most of the South in the hands of the Democratic Party. In 1877 Hayes withdrew the remaining government troops, tacitly abandoning federal responsibility for enforcing blacks’ civil rights.
The South was still a region devastated by war, burdened by debt caused by misgovernment, and demoralized by a decade of racial warfare. Unfortunately, the pendulum of national racial policy swung from one extreme to the other. Whereas formerly it had supported harsh penalties against Southern white leaders, it now tolerated new and humiliating kinds of discrimination against blacks. The last quarter of the 19th century saw a profusion of “Jim Crow” laws in Southern states that segregated public schools, forbade or limited black access to many public facilities, such as parks, restaurants and hotels, and denied most blacks the right to vote by imposing poll taxes and arbitrary literacy tests.
It was the retreat of the Republicans from power in the South and the re-emergence of the Democrats that ushered in 100 years of system of racial segregation so harsh and brutal it could have served as the model for South Africa’s notorious apartheid society.
So who was Jim Crow? Jim Crow was a derisive slang term for a black man. It came to mean any state law passed in the South that established different rules for blacks and whites. Jim Crow laws were based on the theory of white supremacy and were a reaction to Reconstruction.
How did this start after Reconstruction ended? In 1890, in spite of its sixteen black members left over from the days of Republican rule, the Louisiana General Assembly now packed with Democrats passed a law to prevent black and white people from riding together on railroads. Plessy v. Ferguson, a case challenging the law, reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1896. Upholding the law, the court said that public facilities for blacks and whites could be “separate but equal.” Soon, throughout the South, they had to be separate.
Two years later, the Supreme Court seemed to seal the fate of black Americans when it upheld a Mississippi law designed to deny black men the vote. Given the green light, Southern states began to limit the voting right to those who owned property or could read well, to those whose grandfathers had been able to vote, to those with “good characters,” to those who paid poll taxes. In 1896, Louisiana had 130,334 registered black voters. Eight years later, only 1,342, 1 percent, could pass the state’s new rules.
Jim Crow laws touched every part of life. In South Carolina, black and white textile workers could not work in the same room, enter through the same door, or gaze out of the same window. Many industries wouldn’t hire blacks, because many unions passed rules to exclude them.
In Richmond, one could not live on a street unless most of the residents were people one could marry. One could not marry someone of a different race. By 1914, Texas had six entire towns where blacks could not live. Mobile passed a Jim Crow curfew: Blacks could not leave their homes after 10 p.m. Signs marked “Whites Only” or “Colored” hung over doors, ticket windows, and drinking fountains. Georgia had black parks and white parks. Oklahoma had black phone booths and white phone booths.
Prisons, hospitals, and orphanages were segregated as were schools and colleges. In North Carolina, black and white students had to use separate sets of textbooks. In Florida, the books couldn’t even be stored together. Atlanta courts kept two Bibles: one for black witnesses and one for whites, so they did not touch the same one. Virginia told fraternal social groups that black and white members could not address each other as “Brother.”
This was the democrat imposed regime of Jim Crow. This was the law of the land in the Democrat controlled south.
It was the Democrats who fought segregation: standing in school house doors, beating protestors, attacking people with dogs and water hoses. It was the democrats who shut down entire public school systems rather than integrate. One prominent Democrat, the governor of Alabama, George Wallace proclaimed, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” aptly stating the position of the Democrat party.
Then along came the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law revolutionized a country where under Jim Crow laws blacks and whites could not eat together in public restaurants or stay at the same hotel. It outlawed discrimination in public places and facilities and banned discrimination based on race, gender, religion, or national origin by employers and government agencies. It also encouraged the desegregation of public schools.
The act had the longest filibuster in U.S. Senate history, and after a bloody, long civil rights struggle, the Senate passed the act 73-27 in July 1964. Contrary to the indoctrinated reality most people parrot as their own opinion or knowledge more Republicans voted in favor of the Civil Rights Act than Democrats.
Take for example Ohio’s Republican Rep. William McCulloch had a conservative track record because he opposed foreign and federal education aid and supported gun rights and school prayer. His district (the same one now represented by House Speaker [mc_name name=’Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’B000589′ ]) had a small African-American population. So he had little to gain politically by supporting the Civil Rights Act.
Yet he became a critical leader in getting the bill passed. His ancestors opposed slavery even before the Civil War, and he’d made a deal with Kennedy to see the bill through to passage. “The Constitution doesn’t say that whites alone shall have our most basic rights, but that we all shall have them,” McCulloch would say to fellow legislators.
Later, he would play a key role in the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 1968 Fair Housing Act and become part of the Kerner Commission, appointed by the Johnson administration to investigate the 1967 race riots.
It was the Democrats that tried to filibuster the Civil Rights Act to death in the Senate. It was the Republicans who fought to make equality a reality.
Today after generations of revisionist History and propaganda the Democrats have remade their image into the protector of the downtrodden and the champions of racial equality. This brings me to the question that I believe everyone should ask and everyone should be able to answer, “Who was Jim Crow and why is he calling me a racist?”
For further reading and an enlightening study of the Democratic Party’s buried past I would highly recommend Wrong on Race by Bruce Bartlett.
Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion. He is the Historian of the Future @ http://drrobertowens.com © 2015 Contact Dr. Owens [email protected] Follow Dr. Robert Owens on Facebook or Twitter @ Drrobertowens / Edited by Dr. Rosalie Owens