Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Condoleezza Rice are just some of the names that people tend to offer when saying that the United States is long past the days of Jim Crow. While such a statement is certainly debatable and in many ways untrue, what isn’t debatable is the fact that in terms of time, Jim Crow is not that far removed from us.
In reality, the last of the legal barriers facing African-Americans was torn down less than 50 years ago with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which disallowed racial discrimination when it came to voting in United States elections. Many amendments to that act have since been passed (some of which have effectively gutted it), and the Department of Justice believes the Voting Rights Act to be the most important legislation involving civil rights that has ever been enacted.
When Jim Crow was put into effect following the Reconstruction period, African Americans’ status in the South was defined yet again by whites in positions of power, this time not as three-fifths of a person but as “separate but equal”. As the photos here suggest, racial segregation that followed did little to suggest that equality actually existed. Instead, it led to inferior conditions and discrimination within almost every facet of segregated society, and whose legacy can still be seen today.
For more on Jim Crow laws, check out this short–and chilling–documentary: