Vann Woodward's The Strange Career of Jim Crow Essay

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Vann Woodward's The Strange Career of Jim Crow

In 1955, C. Vann Woodward published the first edition of his book, The Strange Career of Jim Crow. The book garnered immediate recognition and success with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. eventually calling it, “the historical Bible of the civil rights movement.” An endorsement like this one from such a prominent and respect figure in American history makes one wonder if they will find anything in the book to criticize or any faults to point out. However, with two subsequent editions of the book, one in August 1965 and another in October 1973—each adding new chapters as the Civil Rights movement progressed—one wonders if Dr. King’s assessment still holds up, if indeed The Strange Career
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He cites instances of cohabitation between white men and black women. After the Civil War, the period of northern Republican occupation of the South, called the Reconstruction, allowed for a different mixing of the races than had happened before. He shows evidence that the races, especially in rural areas were separating because former slaves were running away from their former masters and residences. During the Reconstruction slavery was abolished through the thirteenth amendment, blacks gained citizenship through the fourteenth amendment, and the right to vote was extended to blacks through the fifteenth amendment. Woodward shows that in many states these new amendments to the Constitution helped to create a situation in the South that many people would not have predicted. He provides evidence that the white reaction to blacks on juries, appointment of blacks to government positions, and the mixing of races at work and in towns was fairly resigned. Woodward argues that this was because there was so much change with old regimes colliding to new ones that many southerners felt compelled to go along with the changes. He also attributes most of the sentiment this to the contrived nature of the South created by northern occupiers. Woodward also contends the idea of segregation started in the North. He argues that slavery and segregation are contemporary ideas because by the 1830s, slavery had ended in northern states and by 1860 segregation of

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