History- To Kill a Mockingbird
Racial Relations in the Southern United States
Jim Crow Laws
The racial concerns that Harper Lee addresses in To Kill a Mockingbird began long before her story starts and continued long after. In order to sift through the many layers of prejudice that Lee exposes in her novel, the reader needs to understand the complex history of race relations in the South.
Many states — particularly in the South — passed "Jim Crow" laws (named after a black, minstrel show character), which severely limited how African Americans could participate in society. The U. S. Supreme Court paved the ways for these laws in 1883 when the court ruled that it couldn't enforce the 14th Amendment at the individual level. The first Jim Crow law appeared in 1890; the laws increased from there and lasted until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
Many whites at the time believed that instead of progressing as a race, blacks were regressing with the abolition of slavery. Southern churches frequently upheld this racist thinking, which also helped give the Jim Crow laws some of their power.
Ironically, African-American churches were as likely to uphold the Jim Crow laws as white churches were. The continued oppression of one group over another is largely psychological. The dominant group first uses force to obtain their power. Slowly, the group being oppressed begins to feel hopeless that the situation can change and begins to unwittingly buy into the oppression as the norm. Before the Civil Rights movement gained momentum, many African-American churches concentrated on helping their congregations deal with the oppression rather than trying to end it.
Jim Crow laws extended into almost every facet of public life. The laws stipulated that blacks use separate entrances into public buildings, have separate restrooms and drinking fountains, and sit in the back of trains and buses. Blacks and whites were not allowed to be served food in the same...