Remembering Jim Crow provides history and personal accounts of what the period after slavery and reconstruction was like. The American South implemented a series of laws and customs that were designed to deny blacks their dignity and rights as citizens, unfortunately these were the “Jim Crow” laws. In the book, Remembering Jim Crow; the author explains with first hand accounts of what living under Jim Crow did to both the blacks and whites who experienced the daily horrors of this time.
The book provides interviews of those who convey the hardships and suffering experienced by the African Americans in the United States from the end of the 19th century to the mid 1960s. The participants of the interviews provide in graphic detail the daily horrors of lynching, harassments, and sexual exploitation and they reveal the resourcefulness with which they fought back. They fought back by building communities at home, at work, and in the church to form ways to resist the oppression and lay the ground work for more broaden social change.
This provided them with a full range of human experience, one that only those who have truly suffered can endure. I particular enjoyed the stories of Leon Alexander and Earl Brown both who were organized coal miners in Alabama in the 1930s. They provide intimate detail of their struggle to unionize for better wages and working conditions. Their goal also encompassed getting white miners to join the union as well. They tell stories of how they fought the system without any national attention or support and in no way was associated with the civil right movements of the 1960s.
Time and time again throughout the book, those who were part of the interview express a sense of how they made history and how they feel they can educate the younger generations. Jim Crow was one of the longest periods of our American History. It paved the way for the Civil Rights era which some believe marked a positive and uplifting progress in the segregation area that still lingers today with some Jim Crow still around. It was painful to read the many, many, accounts of racial violence and sexual exploitation throughout the book.
The vivid descriptions of everyday racial oppression provided me with a sense of being in the system myself and reminded me of how trapped some are at the bottom of society. The farmers in Florida provided graphic details of how they struggled thought eh Jim Crow era. They were thwarted in their repeated attempts to gain control by planting their own crops, buying land and sending their own children to school. The graphic stories of how whites would burn their crops and shoot the framers and as if that wasn’t enough, shut the schools at harvest time, just reminded me of an era that I am glad I have only heard about.
I found this book to be an extraordinary opportunity to read the voices of those black southerners who experienced this terrible account of American History firsthand. The vivid stories of profound and unrelenting racial oppression reminds us of how racism was everywhere in those days. In the workplace, on street corners and even in public facilities and instructions that systematically demeaned, disenfranchised, and disempowered the black people.
All of this condemned them to a second class citizenship. However, with all that said, this book did provide inspiring stories of hope, faith, and love. It provided a sense of survival enriched by memories of individuals, families, and community triumphs including the tragedies that took place. In conclusion, this book provided 1200 interviews with those African Americans who represented diverse economic, social, and cultural lifestyles of urban and rural life.
They provided the daily terror they experienced in extraordinary tales that only those who had been exposed to that terrible time could have expressed. Finally, in the Remembering Jim Crow, I was saddened to learn why those African Americans have developed their own life in regards to being estranged from those life styles of the white people. Jim Crow gripped the South for nearly 80 years and sadly races relations today are still deeply marked by the system of repressive law and custom of the time. Will we ever be able to move past what happen centuries ago?