Tuesday, November 9, 2010
I find myself now reading Trouble in Mind, by Leon Litwack, which deals expressly with the Jim Crow Era in the South. This was one of the books Chartres had recommended years ago.
The first chapter entitled Baptisms is a collection of oral histories which describe the cruel and often dehumanizing treatment Blacks suffered in the South. Some very appalling stories. There are recollections by Louis Armstrong, Ralph Ellison, Rosa Parks, Richard Wright, among others. What makes these stories deeply unsettling is that the Federal government did nothing to stop the disenfranchisement of Blacks in the South. Surprising, when you consider that Rutherford B. Hayes relied on Black Republican votes to win key Southern states in the hotly disputed 1876 election.
Subsequent Presidents played lip service to Blacks, but no President was willing to step out on the limb and enforce the new Constitutional amendments, essentially allowing the Southern states to roll back all the hard-earned gains made by Blacks in the South. No book better described these gains than W.E.B. DuBois' Black Reconstruction in the America.
C. Vann Woodward covered much of this ground in The Strange Career of Jim Crow, but it appears that Litwack goes much further in his exploration of this troubled era.