Sometimes, it can be difficult to comprehend that less than just fifty years ago, African-Americans were not afforded the same rights as Caucasian individuals in the United States. Before the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was passed, it was legal to discriminate against other people — simply because their skin was darker in color.
Though attitudes (for the most part) have drastically changed in the years that have passed, symptoms of systemic racism, which largely resulted from the Jim Crow laws, persist. Colored people were granted their basic rights and freedom, but blatantly racist laws and policies were still passed.
“Redlining,” for instance, went on until the 1980’s. The discriminative practice resulted in African-American neighborhoods being “singled” out to receive fewer loans, worse insurance policies, and less healthcare. The repercussions are still being felt today.
In modern-day America, the poverty rates for African Americans is more than double that of white, non-Hispanic individuals (according to 2015 data). Recent reports have also revealed that voter ID laws discriminate against racial minorities to “keep them away from the polls.”
Persistent racism is perhaps most evident in the justice system. As a result of enhanced stereotypes and a failing “war on drugs,” black males aged 15-34 are nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by police. The shootings of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and Michael Brown, and the unjust treatment of Sandra Blair — among others, is evidence of this.
Though progress continues to be made on all fronts, the fact that systemic racism exists cannot be ignored. There is division in the United States because change is needed. Until reform is made, tensions between groups with opposing viewpoints will continue to escalate. As a result, sequences such as those which were witnessed during the Jim Crow era may become more prevalent, and that would be a travesty for us all.
Following are 25 heart-wrenching images from the Jim Crow era that are as relevant as ever today:
1) African-American children look to through the fence at a playground legally forbidden from them. 1956.
2) Two men drink from segregated water fountains.
3) Elizabeth Eckford ignores the hostile screams and stares of fellow students on her first day of school. She was one of the nine African-American students whose integration into Arkansas’ Little Rock Central High School was ordered by a federal court following legal action by the NAACP. September 6, 1957.
4) During the Freedom Riders’ travels throughout the South to protest segregated buses, one bus was set on fire by an angry mob. Luckily, everyone on the bus was able to escape without injury. Location unspecified. 1961.
5) Fifteen-year-old Johnny Gray points a warning finger at one of the two white boys who tried to force him and his sister, Mary, from the sidewalk as they walked to school in Little Rock, Arkansas on September 16, 1958.
6) Alabama Governor George Wallace stands at the door of the University of Alabama in protest of integration. June 11, 1963.
7) The spring of 1963 brought a protest against police brutality and discrimination to Birmingham, Alabama. Police chief Bull Connor famously turned fire hoses on protesters and used attack dogs and his own fists to physically beat unarmed people – including women and children.
8) A nervous young girl sits in the front row. She is the only black girl in her newly integrated class. Tennessee. 1957.
9) Benny Oliver, former Jackson, Mississippi policeman, viciously kicks Memphis Norman, an African-American student from nearby Wiggins who had been waiting along with two other students to be served at a segregated lunch counter. The rumor of possible civil rights actions in the town caused onlookers to cheer the beating. May 28, 1963.
10) Demonstrators protest against the integration of Little Rock, Arkansas’ Central High School.
11) [Original caption] “Despite a court ruling on desegregating buses, white and blacks continue to be divided by their own choice.”
12) A classroom sits close to empty after white students refuse to attend their newly desegregated school. New York. 1964.
13) Durham, North Carolina. 1940.
14) African-American students arrive at Baltimore, Maryland’s newly integrated Southern High School as white students walk behind with a sign reading “Southern don’t want negroes.” 1954.
15) Six-year-old Ruby Bridges is escorted from school by US Marshals. Bridges was the first African-American child to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana during the New Orleans school desegregation crisis in 1960.
16) A white woman hurriedly bars the way as African-American people were about to enter the lunch counter of this downtown department store in Memphis to protest the segregation policy of the establishment. 1961.
17) Kenyan student David Mbiti encounters segregation for the first time in a bus terminal. Georgia. 1960.
18) A boy drinks from a “colored” water fountain in Halifax, North Carolina. 1938.
19) An African-American military policeman on a motorcycle in front of the “colored” MP entrance. Columbus, Georgia. 1942.
20) Atlanta, Georgia. 1956.
21) New York. Date unspecified.
22) “White Only” taxis. Georgia. 1962.
23) Inside an all-black classroom. Virginia. 1953.
24) From 1959 to 1961, there were no public school facilities in Prince Edward County, Virginia for the estimated 1,700 black children there. The 1,400 white children attended private schools financed by state, county, and private contributions made in lieu of tax payments. This photo shows black students attending school in a one-room shack.
25) A young man drinks from a “colored” at a streetcar terminal. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 1939.
26) Instead of employing a separate entrance, some entire establishments were simply designated for “colored people.” Mississippi. Circa 1937.
27) To gain access to the “colored” entrance of this theater, you’d better be able to ascend an outdoor flight of stairs. Mississippi. 1939.
28) A sign directly opposite the Sojourner Truth homes, a new U.S. federal housing project in Detroit, Michigan. A riot was caused by white neighbors’ attempts to prevent African-American tenants from moving in. 1942.
29) Demonstrators picketing over lunch counter segregation. Georgia. 1960.
30) A white teenager tears up the sign of a black protestor picketing variety stores protesting their segregation policies. Tallahassee, Florida. 1960.
31) A boy watches as crowds of segregationist demonstrators walk to Arkansas’ Little Rock Central High to protest the first African-American students in a white school. 1957.
32) A woman and a child, both of whom refused to identify themselves, march in front of the Arkansas Capitol in Little Rock in protest of the scheduled integration of this city’s high schools. 1957.
33) Soldiers escort the first African-American students to integrate Little Rock, Arkansas’ Central High School on September 24, 1957.
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