Reasons behind the Jim Crow laws were of many but Woodward believes that these laws were relatively inevitable due to the tremendous influence of slavery and the popular belief of Anglo-Saxon superiority. In the past, slavery had very much ensured the subordination of blacks but once slavery was ultimately abolished and the fight for race equality began, white conservatives believed that it was their duty to do whatever they can to prevent racial integration. They needed to find another way of incorporating separation and exploitation constitutionally so that they could fulfill their needs of being superior.
The whites had always believed that there exists a dividing line between the white and black race. The purpose of this distinction was evidently to promote white supremacy. Since majority of the white population desired to be superior, there was no opportunity for encouragement of equality. In fact, in 1858, Lincoln states “I am not…
in favor of…social and political equality of the white and black races.
..While they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I…am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race” (Woodward 21). He was confident in the necessity of distinction and in labeling one race as superior and the other inferior.
Even Lincoln, who is most notably known for eventually terminating the cruel institution of slavery, had once believed in the opposition of equality of races. Closer to the commencement of the Civil War, Lincoln began to wrestle with idea of race. He only advocated for abolition as he presumed it would be more beneficial for the union but entirely disregarded racial equality. Later on, his views drastically altered as he had an epiphany regarding the immorality of instituting slavery. Superiority brought on immense amount of exploitation which resulted in exposing blacks to risk and humiliation.
Ironically, the name Jim Crow comes from a minstrel show that depicted a white man imitating a black stableman. The name itself proves the inevitability of segregation as the common ground on race still never materialized. The origin of segregation however arrived from the ruthless implementation of slavery. It had severely impacted the many lives of blacks as well as whites. Due to the African Americans incessantly serving their white masters, white primacy gradually eventuated. Whites had always believed that the purpose of black existence was so that they can provide for the white race. They believed that they were the more worthy of the kind and for many generations on forward, they believed that promoting black inferiority wasn’t morally wrong.
Eventually slavery ceased, but racial discrimination from the old regime still subsisted and as a result, there was a need for segregation. Woodward lastly concludes that racial contact lacking harmony lead to inexorable apartheid in the south. Temporary disorder and chaos came about as there was the absence of racial tolerance.
Soon enough, President Johnson adopted the notorious Black Codes and its intentions were to resemble the ideological roots of the slavery period. As an immediate result, racial discrimination drastically increased and it began with the prohibition of blacks using first-class accommodations on railroads and the advocation of public school segregation. Despite the Northern victory that lead to the grants of civil rights for African Americans, the government never argued against separation. Woodward states that, “All these practices, legal or extra-legal, had the consent or at least the acquiescence of the Reconstruction governments” (25). Governments had no role in advocating for racial equality and in actuality were in favor of the white race. They reluctantly accepted establishments that patently violated the rights of African Americans.
Along with that, there were the civil rights cases in 1883 where the Supreme Court ultimately stated that the 14th amendment only prohibits government violations of civil rights, not by individuals. This soon set up the stage for Jim Crow Laws. Woodward later quotes Joel Williamson where he states, “Separation had crystallized into a comprehensive pattern…” (25) It is evident that both races had been living separately for centuries and intermixing never ensued. Separation was a constant theme between both of the races. Clearly, if slavery was eliminated, another way of promoting inferiority among the African Americans would soon come about.
The establishment of Jim Crow Laws was bound to happen due to superiority, the influence of slavery, and the lack of racial harmony in the South. If only people were open to the idea of social and racial acceptance, backlash could have been avoided and history would have a had completely disparate outcome.