At the Depths of Society
Although independence was granted to African Americans after the Civil War, the civil freedoms thought to be associated with the political reform were obscured by racial bias. Finally presented with the liberties they yearned for after generations of confinement, African Americans were not given the guidance to pursue the dream of reaching a higher status and were left vulnerable to subjection. The introduction of Jim Crow laws of the South in the late 1800s, which endorsed segregation, was a sign of the abysmal future for African Americans, as they were plagued with intimidation and intolerance. However, motivated by a sense of freedom they sought to take advantage of the new but yet bounded opportunity to escape the toil living at the bottom of society. In spite of the prevalent ambition to abandon their long held second class status, African Americans from 1877 to the 1930s faced the social issues of racial discrimination and prejudice, which ultimately outweighed their minimal economic progress.
The sanction of Jim Crow laws renewed the unjustified discrimination that had already once conflicted African Americans of the South. The divisive laws were eventually accused of violating the 14th Amendment which granted citizenship rights in the 1896 Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson, but the closing statement to the case referring to the legality of de jure segregation concluded, “The object of the [14th] amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of two races before the law but in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions upon color” (Plessy). The verdict ultimately settled the case in favor of the Jim Crow law in the sense that “separate but equal” implied the equal condition of a black or white distinguished area. Lawfully, de jure segregation did not conflict with amendment rights because by decree, Jim Crow laws were not imposing any infringement of rights stated. The decision exposed a legal loophole in which the ways segregation was socially imposed was immune to government regulation, for example in this situation where the quality of black boxcars as compared to white boxcars was not equal. In reality the support of such separation played as a scheme to retain African Americans as second class. As a consequence of the federal government certifying the statutory equity of racial segregation, additional Jim Crow laws were admitted pushing the boundaries of the government’s judiciary system. For instance, another law approved in 1920 labeled any discrepancies regarding segregation to be a crime, acknowledging, “[a]ny person […] in favor of social equality or of intermarriage between whites or Negros [to] be guilty of a misdemeanor” (Jim Crow). While the first amendment states the right to freedom of expression, the piece of legislature violated the natural right in order specifically restrict interracial marriage and eliminate opinions against racial division. The addition of punishment also widened the separation of society and instilled an intuition of transgression for associating with African Americans. As a result of the discriminatory laws, the social struggles African Americans faced also conflicted with their financial troubles.