Sunday, July 24, 2016

How Poor Southern Whites Became Secondary Victims of Jim Crow

When the Jim Crow laws were passed in the Southern states between 1890 and 1912, requiring separation of the races in all aspects of public life, and when poll taxes and literacy tests were imposed which removed the vast bulk of Black voters from the rolls, poor whites were told that these measures were done for their benefit, and would make "the poorest white man the superior of the most elevated colored man." Many poor whites bought into this vision and became fierce defenders of segregation and white supremacy.
However, the psychological gains of "white supremacy" were not accompanied by economic ones. Indeed, the economic status of poorer whites actually declined after these measures were implemented. Here is what transpired
1. Many poorer whites were disfranchised by the same laws used to take away the vote from almost all Blacks.
2. With almost ALL Blacks and many poor whites disfranchised, southern elites refused to fund public education at the level which it was funded in other part of the country, even for whites. Literacy levels among Southern whites remained far below that of whites in any other part of the country.
3. With the bulk of the Southern working class not voting, Southern state government completely suppressed unions. The results were that Southern whites, even in all white industries like textiles, and in mostly white industries like mining, suffered terrible working conditions- low wages, long hours, use of child labor, and terrible vulnerability to workplace related diseases and industrial accidents
Southern elites promised poor whites a new day when Blacks were lynched, segregated and deprived of the vote.. What they got was poverty, illiteracy, and an early death from disease and industrial accidents
The lesson: Beware of powerful people who tell you, as a white person, that your security and well being depends on Black people being kept under more rigid control. The rights that are lost may include your own

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