Woodward ‘The Strange Career of Jim Crow’


As the twentieth century drew near, there was a need for social customs, as well as law bodies. The purpose of the latter was to ensure that as the Reconstruction ended, the south would still maintain and establish the race segregation, which was rampant. This is what is known as Jim Crow. Vann Woodward ensured that the advent is known, in terms of historical significance and accounting information. Also, he meant to ensure that people are aware of the impact it had on relations of race, in regions that were not in the south. Furthermore, in the year 1965, when the Jim Crow demised had to be known as well. According to Woodward, in the south, there were two Reconstructions, which existed. After the ending of the Civil War, the first Reconstruction occurred. In turn, the constitution was amended. This was through the efforts of forces that were radical and they advocated for equal rights and emancipation. This period lasted until the year 1877. During this time, a president could be elected peacefully through what is known as ‘The Great Compromise’. Also, the South was gotten rid of occupational forces who were Northern (Woodward, 2001. 27).

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Woodward came up with different chapters of this book, all which are extremely significant. They all dwelt with various issues, which were important to him. Woodward used many sources in order for people to understand the Jim Crow Concept.  The subjects in the chapters included; Progressivism, Civil Rights, Slavery, Race, Redemption, New South, Populism, Slavery as well as Reconstruction. He often referred to Martin Luther in what is known as a slim volume.  According to him, ‘Civil Rights Movements’ were contained in the book, which was also compared to a bible. It was as a result of slavery that racial legislation based on the system of Jim Crow came to being.  Also, the reason why in the South, it was excessively dominating is known (Woodward, 2001. 32). Other factors, which lead to the expansion of this system, were Redemption, Reconstruction and Civil War. The whites in the South had a lot of power and thus the reason for being prejudice. It was in the south that Jim Crow’s formation took place and it was extremely advanced. This is before it reached the South region. There was no close contact and intermingling in the South between the different races. Slavery was extremely rife in the South.The systems functionality would be affected by segregation, which would have brought about obstruction and inconvenience. It is often difficult for races to be separated. Some examples that Woodward gave concerning Jim Craw during the reconstruction period were many. Public schools were segregated and churches were separated for the different races. The period was marred by revolutionary innovations, contradictions, and violent reactions among others (Woodward, 2001. 48).

The argument presented by Woodward is that Jim Crow’s onset was not stopped by redemption. There was a difference between segregation and redemption according to him. But some critics of his works do not seem to concur with him. He goes on to argue that the fanatical rigidity and conformity era was bound to take place soon. This is because the different races had to be in contact with each other. In turn, many white dissenters were silenced, in public forums, Negros have driven away, among other examples. Interracial interaction was forbidden and this surprised the views of people, who wanted to engage in rational discussion. Woodward came up with three race relations philosophies and they were liberalism, radicalism and conservatism. The South was not interested in being liberalized.Wade Hampton, a politician, practiced conservatism whereby, he believed in nobles oblige and paternalism philosophy, which were aristocratic. Furthermore, this philosophy ensured that education and aid was awarded to African Americans. This was to be at the same level as those whites who were in low classes. According to those who followed this theory, no African American was superior. The irony is that they did not believe in public humiliation and segregation of Negroes. After reading the text, it is evident that Woodward’s sources are credible as well as persuasive. This is because for every claim he made there was evidence to support it (Woodward, 2001. 79).

Radicalism is another philosophy, which was advocated by some populists. According to them, there was a need for poverty and want equalitarianism. The latter was meant to be between blacks and whites, who were known as being oppressor and the aggrieved. Most Southerners who were working class, believed in racial antipathies. Tom Watson was a populist of the 1890’s who wanted to ensure that there was interracial alliance. For a long time in the south, hatred, fear, fanaticism and jealousy existed. There were many forces, which discredited and weakened them, thus the reason for being extremely racist. Some of the forces included government, courts and press opinions, which were liberal (Woodward, 2001. 85). The three major forces, which lead to Jim Crow, were Southern Radicalism, Southern Conservatism and Northern Liberalism. Most times, the African Americans were viewed as scape goats for White southerners, who were interested in their own matters. There were differences between white radicals and conservatives whereby, they had many bloodletting and violent recriminations. In order for the whites to achieve peace, sacrificial lambs were to be the African Americans. Laws were enacted to ensure that reforms were of a progressive form.

Woodward is indeed an excellent author, because his book has all the information concerning Jim Crow.  The presentation was excellent as earlier on, he had won awards for his works. As a result of his book, ‘Mary Chestnut’s Civil War’ he won the Pulitzer Prize. In the book, there is an illuminating and clear analysis of the laws of Jim Crow as well as it historical significance. Also, the evidence he gives is from dated southern information. This is because races mixed both politically and economically during the period of reconstruction. The region had never before experienced racial segregation (Woodward, 2001. 97). The length is suitable for anyone interested in historical matters. It is appropriate for different groups of readers. Also, the style used is modern and easily understood.  In conclusion, Woodward is an excellent author who made history is known, especially about matters of race in the South as well as its impact in society. Indeed, his text is extremely persuading to any readers interested in history. Many of Woodward’s readers remember him through this book and how it has influenced modernity.


Work Cited

Woodward, C. The Strange Career of Jim Crow. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.Print.


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