Wednesday at 2 o’clock in the MSC, the Black Student Union (BSU) gave a presentation about the Jim Crow era in the United States and the events that led to the Jim Crow era. President of BSU Lashaunda Yates, Vice President Kee Richards, Meredith Salois, and Walker Hall Director Leslie Robinson presented. Over thirty people were in attendance.
Today’s event started with a reading of the 13th Amendment which was intended to abolish slavery in the United States. Then, information on Reconstruction was given in addition to details about how, during reconstruction, the southern states were forced to incorporate aspects of the 13th and 14th Amendments into their state constitutions. At first, black individuals had rights, but gradually methods were devised by white supremacists to curb and remove the rights of black people. The 14th Amendment gave blacks the right to vote but did not have measures to ensure black people had property. White land owners used owning land to control the lives of blacks. White people owned the land which black people worked on. Reconstruction lasted from 1867 to 1877. By the end, white supremacist politics had taken over in the south and the black population was severely oppressed. White supremacist political power led to the creation of hate groups like the KKK.
Another method used to control and oppress black people was debt slavery. Black people were arrested for minor crimes and then they would be unable to pay court costs. A white person would pay the costs and then the black person had to work for them to pay it off. This was made illegal in 1867 but still continued up into the 1940s. There were a variety of ways black people ended up in debt slavery besides court costs. This was not always a permanent condition. Some were allowed to work off their debts and then were paid wages, but others abused the system to force people to continue to work for them.
Slavery by another name also occurred through leasing convicts. Many prisons in the South were destroyed during the Civil War. It was costly for the states to hold people. A system of leasing convicts was established. Employers would lease convicts for a small amount of money. This profited the states governments and the people who received leased labor. The employers just had to pay the leasing fee, then feed and house the convicts. Employers had no reason to treat the convicts well. After a time, the public sentiment turned against leasing convicts. State governments stopped leasing and instead used chain gangs for public works.
In the Jim Crow era, facilites for black and white citizens in theory were separate but equal. These facilites included restaurants, bus and train seats, libraries, water fountains, restrooms, and schools. In reality the facilities for black citizens were in much worse condition, if they even were available, compared to white only facilities. All facilities were marked by signs saying either “Whites Only” or “Colored.” During Jim Crow, black citizens had the right to vote but were prevented in many states by literacy tests and other such methods.
Between 1870 and 1950, according the the organization “Equal Justice Initiative,” 3,959 people were lynched in the United States. In the internet cafe in the MSC there are some photos of lynchings. Among these photos are photos of postcards with lynching images sent during the Jim Crow era. People in the U.S. knew people were lynched but lynching was not prevented.
At the end of the event, football coach Nate Robinson asked the audience about how they felt if they saw the signs around campus today indicating which race could use the faculties. He also asked how people felt when they saw him wearing a noose around his neck at the beginning of the presentation.
Each day this week at 2 o’clock there is a Tunnel of Oppression presentation. Tomorrow it will be held in the MSC main room and will be on the topics of Segregation and Civil Rights. Tonight after the Presidential Forum BSU is showing the film 42 which is about baseball player Jackie Robinson. The film will be shown in the MSC main room. Tomorrow night at 8 o’clock in the Shaw Auditorium BSU is sponsoring a spoken word night.
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