Essay on Book Review of The Strange Career of Jim Crow

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Book Review of The Strange Career of Jim Crow

Prior to the 1950s, very little research had been done on the history and nature of the United States’ policies toward and relationships with African Americans, particularly in the South. To most historians, white domination and unequal treatment of Negroes were assumed to be constants of the political and social landscapes since the nation’s conception. Prominent Southern historian C. Vann Woodward, however, permanently changed history’s naïve understanding of race in America through his book entitled The Strange Career of Jim Crow. His provocative thesis explored evidence that had previously been overlooked by historians and gave a fresh foundation for more research on the topic of
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Answering this radical turn of events, Woodward published a third edition of Strange Career in 1974 to discuss the ambiguity faced by many African Americans in opposing the principles of Jim Crow laws while maintaining a distinctive racial identity. His research and continual revisions made The Strange Career of Jim Crow an undeniable force of the time with praise hailing from civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. who referred to it as “the historical bible of the civil rights movement.”

In The Strange Career of Jim Crow Woodward claimed that the segregation that eventually appeared in the South was not an unavoidable consequence of slavery and Reconstruction. He stated that although slavery was commonly practiced across the region, “segregation would have been an inconvenience and an obstruction to the functioning” of Southern society and systems. Slavery, despite its basis in white superiority, had promoted an unavoidable intimacy and association between the races, as seen from the prevalence in mulattoes and residential intermixing. Woodward went on to theorize that segregation and the notion of Jim Crow were not even original products of the South; instead, they had been developed and advanced in the North before being exported to the South. He pointed to the well-developed system of segregation that
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