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Ghosts of Jim Crow

Ghosts of Jim Crow: Ending Racism in Post-Racial America

F. Michael Higginbotham
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 326
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  • Book Info
    Ghosts of Jim Crow
    Book Description:

    "Higginbotham provides a thoughtful and perceptive discussion on the role of race in America today. His keen legal analysis and compelling narrative has resulted in a fascinating examination of how far we have come as a nation, but more importantly, of how far we have to go." - Barbara A. Mikulski, U.S. Senator for Maryland When America inaugurated its first African American president, in 2009, many wondered if the country had finally become a "post-racial" society. Was this the dawning of a new era, in which America, a nation nearly severed in half by slavery, and whose racial fault lines are arguably among its most enduring traits, would at last move beyond race with the election of Barack Hussein Obama? In Ghosts of Jim Crow, F. Michael Higginbotham convincingly argues that America remains far away from that imagined utopia. Indeed, the shadows of Jim Crow era laws and attitudes continue to perpetuate insidious, systemic prejudice and racism in the 21st century. Higginbotham's extensive research demonstrates how laws and actions have been used to maintain a racial paradigm of hierarchy and separation - both historically, in the era of lynch mobs and segregation, and today - legally, economically, educationally and socially. Using history as a roadmap, Higginbotham arrives at a provocative solution for ridding the nation of Jim Crow's ghost, suggesting that legal and political reform can successfully create a post-racial America, but only if it inspires whites and blacks to significantly alter behaviors and attitudes of race-based superiority and victimization. He argues that America will never achieve its full potential unless it truly enters a post-racial era, and believes that time is of the essence as competition increases globally.F. Michael Higginbothamis the Wilson H. Elkins Professor of Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law. He is the author ofRace Law: Cases, Commentary, and Questions.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2446-0
    Subjects: History, Sociology, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. 1-24)
  5. Introduction: Understanding the Racial Paradigm
    (pp. 25-42)

    FROM 1619, WHEN the first blacks arrived in the Jamestown, Virginia, settlement, racial inequality was imposed through law and maintained by practices.¹ In a long history of racial oppression motivated by white desires for economic exploitation and justified by false perceptions of inferiority, blacks were enslaved until 1865, were separated and victimized by law until 1954, and are separated and victimized by practice still, even when the president of the United States, the highest political official under the American constitutional democracy, is black.

    At approximately 10:05 p.m., November 4, 2008, television news stations announced that Barack Obama had been elected...

  6. Part I: Creating the Paradigm:: Racial Hierarchy

    • 1 Constructing Racial Categories from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War
      (pp. 45-62)

      RACIAL CATEGORIZATION HAS been an invaluable tool for facilitating aspects of the paradigm. Without such categorization, aspects of hierarchy and separation could not be implemented. Under the law, slaves had no personal legal rights, and free blacks received limited government protection.²

      The perception of blacks as inferior has affected laws governing American citizenship and criminal jurisprudence since the colonial period. From 1619, white lawmakers have pondered the question, “What should we do with them?” When slaves went from being considered “property” to becoming free persons, the legal system failed to protect them. The transition from “property” to persons should have...

    • 2 Maintaining White Dominance during Reconstruction
      (pp. 63-84)

      AFTER THE CIVIL War, slavery ended in name only. Black servitude continued, as vagrancy laws and laws governing black apprentices were clever strategies to perpetuate slavery. Sharecropping and strategies to reduce black field hands to economic dependency precluded a genuine free labor system. The Civil War may have ended formal slavery, but it also set in motion a new racial schism of white superiority/black inferiority and black separation. The period between the end of the Civil War in 1865 and the end of Reconstruction at the turn of the 19th century reflected the initiation of white resistance to government efforts...

    • 3 Preventing Black Excellence between Plessy and Brown
      (pp. 85-116)

      DURING RECONSTRUCTION, BLACKS had been promised the equality guaranteed in the Constitution.² Yet, by 1896, on the eve of thePlessydecision, that promise seemed to have been completely destroyed. Black political participation had been dismantled in southern states, where 90% of blacks resided.³ Post-Reconstruction governments had blocked political participation by blacks, and educational opportunities for blacks had been greatly reduced.⁴ In order to solidify and maintain false notions of white superiority/black inferiority, blacks would have to be separated from whites, unless they were obviously subservient. Laws were formulated that reflected the notion that blacks were inferior, and demonstrations of...

  7. Part II: Sustaining the Paradigm:: White Isolation and Black Separation and Subordination

    • 4 Maintaining Racial Segregation in Schools and Neighborhoods from Brown to the 21st Century
      (pp. 119-140)

      FALSE NOTIONS OF white superiority/black inferiority fueled white desires for racial isolation that were supported by laws and case decisions beginning with Reconstruction. As blacks fought for integrated schools, housing, and public accommodations, white resistance increased. Most blacks would not be separated without resistance, and many whites would not cease creating policies and practices geared toward ensuring white isolation. While the famous 1954 Supreme Court decision inBrown v. Board of Education,² prohibiting state-mandated racial segregation in public schools, gave progressive Americans hope that racial isolation would be eradicated, not only in education but in all aspects of American society,...

    • 5 Victimizing Blacks in the 21st Century
      (pp. 141-178)

      DESPITE PRONOUNCEMENTS TO the contrary, as Justice Ginsburg reminded us as the 20th century drew to a close and more than a half-century afterBrown Ideclared an end to Jim Crow segregation, the desire by some whites for racial isolation, and the opportunity to victimize blacks, persists. These desires manifest themselves in a wide variety of areas such as education, criminal justice, housing, economics, and politics. In the 21st century, while Jim Crow laws have been eliminated, the white superiority/black inferiority beliefs remain, resulting in choices by both whites and blacks that maintain black separation and white isolation, and...

  8. Part III: Ending the Paradigm:: Building a Post-Racial America

    • 6 Black Empowerment and Self-Help
      (pp. 181-200)

      ERASING THE FALSE image of black inferiority will require increased economic, educational, and political empowerment of blacks, and massive black self-help efforts, particularly in emphasizing the importance of education and limiting the use of racism as an excuse for not trying or for misdirected efforts. This chapter challenges us to break down false notions of racial hierarchy through a new emphasis on massive self-help efforts.

      By believing that failure is inevitably the result of racism, some blacks create the false and dangerous notion that their futures are out of their own control. As Debra Dickerson explained, “The last plantation is...

    • 7 Integration and Equality
      (pp. 201-222)

      FOR BLACKS TODAY, opportunities are much better than they were under Jim Crow. The opportunities to attend college and professional schools have significantly increased. During Jim Crow, no opportunities existed in major colleges and universities in the South. Only a token number of spots opened annually at schools in the North, causing most to rely on a small number of historically black colleges and universities. Today, almost all schools of higher education actively recruit blacks for admission, and most have significant percentages of black enrollees.

      Employment opportunities, both in the public and private sectors, have also greatly expanded from the...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 223-300)
  10. Table of Cases
    (pp. 301-304)
  11. Index
    (pp. 305-315)
  12. About the Author
    (pp. 316-316)