American Race Relations: The South

Figure 1.--This is an obviously staged studio portrit. We do not know who the photographer was and just why he took this portrait. We do know it was taken in 1899. The backgrounds suggests that he was trying to portray the South. It is interesting because it pictures black and white children playing together. And this was common in the South. Neigborhoods were not as segregated as in the North and black and white children up to a certain age did often plsy togrther. Source: Library of Congress LC-USZ62-115223.

The Civil Rights movement primarily focused on the Southern states. This was because it was in the South that racism was institutionalized by state law. Each state had their own laws, but they established a legal system that seggregated life by race. Federal law somewhat complicated the system, becuse blacks were legally entitled to vote. This was circumvented by poll taxes and literary tests in which illiterate whites were grandfathered in. And Klan terrorism essentially prevented legal challenges to the system. And terrorist attacks during the 1950s and early 60s also resulted in the nation's attention being focused on the South. This the issue of racism in the North at first recieved relatively little attention. With all the negative headlines from the South, it was commonly missed that in terms of interpersonal relations there was in many ways less seggregation in the South than in the North. Granted it was not interactions on equal terms, but there were more personal contacts between blacks and whites in the South than in the North. Black and white children up to a certain age played together. There was probanly more of this in the 19th century and early 20th century than is the case today. Black women commonly were employed as domestics in white homes. Neighborhoods were not nearly as segregated in southern cities as was the case in northern cities. The fact that there were personal contacts was important. While they were unequal personal contacts, at least there were personal relationships to build on. This was a factor explaining why the race riolts of the 1960s primarily occurred in northern rather than southern cities. It was also the case that once the civil rights laws were passed and blacks got the vote in the South, the racial issues became more of a northern than a southern issue.


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Created: 12:43 AM 11/20/2008
Last updated: 12:43 AM 11/20/2008