Historical Methodology

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Historical Methodology

The Strange Career of Jim Crow, by C. Van Woodward, traces the history of race relations in the United States from the mid and late nineteenth century through the twentieth century. In doing so Woodward brings to light significant aspects of Reconstruction that remain unknown to many today. He argues that the races were not as separate many people believe until the Jim Crow laws. To set up such an argument, Woodward first outlines the relationship between Southern and Northern whites, and African Americans during the nineteenth century. He then breaks down the details of the injustice brought about by the Jim Crow laws, and outlines the transformation in American society from discrimination to Civil Rights.
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Litwack writes that even though, “Railroads in Massachusetts and schools in Boston eliminated Jim Crow before the Civil War…Whites of South Boston boasted in 1847 that ‘not a single colored family’ lived among them.”[3] To further support this idea, Woodward explains how fervently Northern whites believed in their supremacy over African Africans. He effectively does so by citing Abraham Lincoln saying in 1858 that, “‘…I am not, nor every have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races…’”[4]

Even though the Northern states did not set a good example of racial equality for the Southern states, the years of Reconstruction did have a positive affect on Southern African Americans, as seen by the conditions in the South after Northern troops were removed in 1877. Woodward argues that segregation and injustice still was not as widespread in this post 1877 era as it was in the 1890’s. His argument is effective because he uses accounts from a variety of reliable sources to support his claim. For example, British Parliament member Sir George Campbell’s describes his 1879 trip across much of the South and surprisingly remarkes that, “‘the humblest black rides with the proudest white on terms of perfect equality…’”[5] Instead of clear discrimination and separation, Sir Campbell was

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