For the past three months I have been hearing about a “man” named “Jim Crow” and frankly, the things being said about this guy were just not nice. Having lived in the area for more than two decades I decided to find out who this guy was and meet him. I wanted to speak to “Mr. Crow” in the hopes of understanding the reason he felt the way he felt. I was determined to help “Mr. Crow” change his thought process because his ideals seemed to be stuck in an era that bred hatred and violence.
My quest to uncover Mr. Crow’s location led me to things I never imagined. The information gathered during my quest were both informative and eye-opening. The most unbelievable thing I found was that “Mr. Crow” was not a person at all, but a depiction of a “character” in a minstrel show performed during an era when slavery was nearing it’s end.
The origin of the phrase “Jim Crow” has often been attributed to “Jump Jim Crow”, a song-and-dance caricature of blacks performed by white actor Thomas D. Rice in blackface. It first surfaced in 1832 and was used to satirize Andrew Jackson’s populist policies later known as the Jim Crow Laws.
The first song sheet edition appeared in the early 1830s, published by E. Riley. The number was supposedly inspired by the song and dance of a crippled African slave called Jim Cuff or Jim Crow. The song became a great 19th century hit and Rice performed all over the country as Daddy Jim Crow.
State and local laws in the United States enacted between 1876 and 1965 mandated de jure racial segregation in all public facilities in Southern states of the former Confederacy, with a supposedly “separate but equal” status for black Americans.
Some of the most prevelant Florida Jim Crow laws affected education (the schools for white children and the schools for negro children shall be conducted separately) and marriage (all marriages between a white person and a negro, or between a white person and a person of negro descent to the fourth generation inclusive, are hereby forever prohibited). Wow!
Fast forward to 2012 as quickly as possible. As a multi-racial female living and working in a diversified community, with family and friends, as well as colleagues and associates of multiple races, religions and variations of colors I can say this, I am grateful I have never been exposed to and have never truly met Jim Crow. I can only attribute this to my upbringing and for this I say to my parents, Thank You.
Slavery is an undeniable fact of history, and a fact that should be referenced in order to compare the injustices of yesterday to the progression of today. Those that reference the times of slavery and relate it to their current situation are said to be clinically “locked” in an era of hatred and simply refuse to move forward due to their mindset. Why would anyone in this day and age want to hold tightly to something so horrid, all the while professing to honor so many that fought to rid our nation of it. I can assure you that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi would not consider this their vision while fighting for civil and equal rights for all.
The point is history was created in the form of yesterdays gone. We should use history as a tool to reflect and learn from. Tomorrow is a mystery to us all, and although we can not predict what will happen, we can take the necessary steps to ensure that our tomorrow will happen the way we’d like it to. We can do this by limiting or even ridding ourselves of our negative influences.
Past and present prove that racism and hatred are not born into a person, they are taught. Strive to recreate your world so it reflects what you feel and who you are, and resist the temptation of attaching to another’s past and emotions thus making them your own. And in the immortal words of one of the most influential singing groups of the 70’s and 80’s, The Pointer Sisters…..”free your mind and the rest will follow…be color blind…dont be so shallow” and let’s strive to make our history worth repeating again and again and again.