Understanding Jim Crow in Foreword Reviews

Understanding Jim Crow: Using Racist Memorabilia to Teach Tolerance and Promote Social Justice

Foreword Reviews
Spring 2016

Jim Crow was more than a series of “Whites Only” sings. It was a way of life that approximated a racial caste system. Jim Crow laws and etiquette were aided by millions of material objects that portrayed blacks as laughable, detestable inferiors. The coon caricature, for example, described black men as lazy, easily frightened, chronically idle, inarticulate, physically ugly idiots. This distorted representation of black men found its way onto postcards, sheet music, children’s games, and many other material objects. The coon and other stereotypical images buttressed the view that blacks were unfit to attend racially integrated schools, live in safe neighborhoods, work in responsible jobs, vote, and hold public office. With little effort I can hear the voices of my black elders—parents, neighbors, teachers—demanding, almost pleading, “Don’t be a coon, be a man.” Living under Jim Crow meant battling shame.

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