Jim Crow Actual Personal Statements

American RadioWorks collected personal histories of people directly affected by Jim Crow.



I always thought that if people's actions couldn't be explained to a child, well, maybe people shouldn't do the things they couldn't explain.
From Legacy of Jim Crow

On my first day in the compound room I went to the "white" lunchroom. I was covered in carbon black. Another worker, obviously convinced that I was an African American, told me I had to leave because that room was for whites only. When I stood up, the table and bench were filthy with carbon black. I left and the next day I ate in the "colored" area.
From Jim Crow on the Job, 1965-1966

The "white only" public school threw their outdated books to the "colored" schools, instead of in the trash. But our diligent teachers taught us to sand the outer edges so the books would at least appear clean and we made book covers from brown grocery bags.
From White Only

I had never seen a black face at the doctor's office. The staff must have had different rooms for the black people, probably in just as bad repair. You would think after all the time I had been going to this doctor that I would have seen a black person in the halls. Obviously the staff went to a great deal of trouble to keep us apart.
From Seeing Discrimination for the First Time

Having attained the respectable level of "Head Custodian" in the Tulsa Public, my dad was able to maneuver his career so that he reported to work at the same schools which I attended. This man was so bent on me getting an education that whenever I'd get bad marks, he'd actually come to my class...march right in...and take a seat in the rear of the class. Why, that ole' Jim Crow was so mean to my dad that he made me learn about subjects that were once illegal to be taught to him.
From Better, Not Bitter

“In the era of colorblindness, it is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt. So we don’t. Rather than rely on race, we use our criminal justice system to label people of color “criminals” and then engage in all the practices we supposedly left behind. Today it is perfectly legal to discriminate against criminals in nearly all the ways that it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once you’re labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination—employment discrimination, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, denial of educational opportunity, denial of food stamps and other public benefits, and exclusion from jury service—are suddenly legal. As a criminal, you have scarcely more rights, and arguably less respect, than a black man living in Alabama at the height of Jim Crow. We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”
― Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow


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