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date: 20 June 2018

Daily Life in the Jim Crow South, 1900–1945

Summary and Keywords

Distinctive patterns of daily life defined the Jim Crow South. Contrary to many observers’ emphasis on de jure segregation—meaning racial separation demanded by law—neither law nor the physical separation of blacks and whites was at the center of the early 20th-century South’s social system. Instead, separation, whether by law or custom, was one of multiple tools whites used to subordinate and exclude blacks and to maintain notions of white racial purity. In turn, these notions themselves varied over time and across jurisdictions, at least in their details, as elites tried repeatedly to establish who was “white,” who was “black,” and how the legal fictions they created would apply to Native Americans and others who fit neither category.

Within this complex multiracial world of the South, whites’ fundamental commitment to keeping blacks “in their place” manifested most routinely in day-to-day social dramas, often described in terms of racial “etiquette.” The black “place” in question was socially but not always physically distant from whites, and the increasing number of separate, racially marked spaces and actual Jim Crow laws was a development over time that became most pronounced in urban areas. It was a development that reveals blacks’ determination to resist racial oppression and whites’ perceived need to shore up a supposedly natural order that had, in fact, always been enforced by violence as well as political and economic power. Black resistance took many forms, from individual, covert acts of defiance to organized political movements. Whether in response to African Americans’ continued efforts to vote or their early 20th-century boycotts of segregated streetcars or World War I-era patterns of migration that threatened to deplete the agricultural labor force, whites found ways to counter blacks’ demands for equal citizenship and economic opportunity whenever and wherever they appeared.

In the rural South, where the majority of black Southerners remained economically dependent on white landowners, a “culture of personalism” characterized daily life within a paternalistic model of white supremacy that was markedly different from urban—and largely national, not merely southern—racial patterns. Thus, distinctions between rural and urban areas and issues of age and gender are critical to understanding the Jim Crow South. Although schools were rigorously segregated, preadolescent children could be allowed greater interracial intimacy in less official settings. Puberty became a break point after which close contact, especially between black males and white females, was prohibited. All told, Jim Crow was an inconsistent and uneven system of racial distinction and separation whose great reach shaped the South’s landscape and the lives of all Southerners, including those who were neither black nor white.

Keywords: Jim Crow, South, segregation, racism, African Americans, daily life, racial etiquette, women, children

The “Etiquette” of Slavery and the Post-Emancipation Decades

Daily life in the early 20th-century South was scripted, to a very large extent, by a code of conduct that had evolved from slavery and was being adapted to an increasingly modern world. After emancipation, white Southerners tried to reassert and maintain dominance over African Americans in all the same ways slaveholders had maintained dominance over slaves: through violence, economic exploitation, and legal and political disfranchisement, and by enforcing everyday social rituals that constantly reiterated and tried to naturalize blacks’ inferior, excluded social status (Figure 1).

Daily Life in the Jim Crow South, 1900–1945Click to view larger

Figure 1. Taking pictures on the main street of Wendell, North Carolina, in 1939, Marion Post Wolcott captured the scene of a black man stepping out of the way of a white woman on the sidewalk. Southern racial etiquette had required blacks to yield to whites in this way since the days of slavery. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, LC-USF34-052631-D.

Some of the earliest academic observers of southern life, including University of Chicago-trained sociologist Bertram Wilbur Doyle, described these social rituals as the “etiquette of race relations,” a term that has persisted in scholarship and seems apt as long as the purpose of this etiquette (in Doyle’s words, “social control”) and its profoundly coercive nature are understood.1 Violence, including the widespread practice of lynching, which claimed the lives of thousands in the century after emancipation, was whites’ “instrument in reserve” that compelled African Americans to act within the limits of racial etiquette most of the time.2 Conventional patterns of domination and deference operated alongside white Southerners’ other techniques of power and were all part of the same oppressive system that had created whites’ notions of “race” and blacks’ “place” to begin with and continued to re-create them from one generation to the next.3 As historian John Kasson writes, “the racial etiquette of white domination daily inculcated and perpetuated what various sociologists, including Pierre Bourdieu, have termed a habitus, the ‘socially constituted system of cognitively and motivating structures’ that form the ideas, beliefs, dispositions, and sense of possible actions and choices with which one views and acts in the world.”4 Blacks resisted the habitus of white supremacy both consciously and unconsciously. As novelist Richard Wright explained of his own unconscious acts of resistance, he “would remember to dissemble for short periods,” then “forget and act straight and human again, not with the desire to harm anybody but merely forgetting the artificial status of race and class.”5

Almost regardless of how intentional their resistance was, blacks who challenged whites’ expectations for deference faced punishment that could range from a verbal rebuke to arrest and imprisonment to torture and death—a universally acknowledged fact that compelled at least an outward performance of subordination most of the time. As white antilynching activist Jessie Daniel Ames observed of the early 20th-century South, white men lynched most readily when a black man “offended that intangible something called ‘racial superiority.’”6 Decades earlier, a slave who offended a white person had been less likely to be arrested or killed because of his economic value, but physical assault had been routine. “A mere look, word, or motion,—a mistake, accident, or want of power,—are all matters for which a slave may be whipped at any time,” Frederick Douglass famously wrote. “Does a slave look dissatisfied? It is said, he has the devil in him, and it must be whipped out. Does he speak loudly when spoken to by his master? Then he is getting high-minded, and should be taken down a button-hole lower. Does he forget to pull off his hat at the approach of a white person? Then he is wanting in reverence, and should be whipped for it.”7

The etiquette of slavery also dictated that slaves bow their heads or lower their eyes, rarely making direct eye contact with whites. They must address all white people, including children, with respect, politely, as “Master,” “Mistress,” or “Miss,” and they must always say “Sir” or “Ma’am.” They could also call white men “Boss” or “Captain” and sometimes did so specifically to withhold the title “Master.” But they must not in any way suggest that they considered themselves equal to whites or worthy of respect or capable of thinking for themselves. To complete the pattern, whites policed their own conduct, not only withholding all forms of courtesy from slaves but also establishing unwritten rules against eating or drinking with any black person, slave or free, especially in any way that implied “social equality.” Bound up with notions of racial purity, this taboo against interracial dining mattered almost as much to most white Southerners as the taboo—and the longstanding laws—against interracial sex.

The Union’s victory in the Civil War shook the South’s racial order in multiple ways. Some legal changes, for instance, seem remarkably far-reaching. Beyond the civil rights at least nominally guaranteed by ratification of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, there is the fact that, “during Reconstruction, a surprisingly large number–indeed, seven of eleven states of the former Confederacy—repealed their antimiscegenation laws, removed them from state codes, or declared them unconstitutional.”8 As a result, notes historian Peter Wallenstein, “beginning in the late 1860s, whites and people with other racial identities were free to marry across any color line—depending on how courts ruled—in Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas but not in Indiana . . ., Georgia, or Virginia. In some states uncertainty persisted well into the 1870s, and Louisiana did not restore its statute against interracial marriage until 1894.”9

In comparison to this degree of ambiguity in the seemingly rock-solid prohibition against interracial sex and marriage, whites’ reassertion of racial etiquette from the very moment of emancipation seems to have been not only swift but relatively conclusive. Blacks asserted their new status as freed people and citizens in multiple ways throughout the late 19th century, but most of their demands for greater respect in daily social interactions were quickly put down by white Southerners like the Tennessean who, in 1865, told northern journalist Whitelaw Reid that “Nigger life’s cheap now” and “when a white man feels aggrieved at anything a nigger’s done, he just shoots him and puts an end to it.” A former slaveholder from South Carolina concurred, assuring Reid that in his part of the state “the death of slavery is recognized and made a basis of action by everybody. But we don’t believe that because the nigger is free he ought to be saucy, and we don’t mean to have any such nonsense as letting him vote. He’s helpless, and ignorant, and dependent, and the old masters will still control him.”10 Overall, African Americans’ major victory in changing racial etiquette after emancipation was to eliminate the words “Master” and “Mistress” from the required vocabulary, replacing them with “Mr.” and “Mrs.” But the rest of the evolving code of racial etiquette proved almost as suffocating as the mask of deference required of slaves had been. Still expected to follow the social rituals of racial subordination, African Americans who wanted to avoid trouble had to keep close watch on the words they chose, their posture and movements, and where they rested their eyes.11

Along with the threat of violence, blacks’ economic dependency, especially as landless farmers, was key to the perpetuation of this face-to-face form of social control. Conversely, it was when blacks escaped the landlord–tenant/employer–employee relationship, and especially when they became more mobile and anonymous by migrating to urban areas, that whites most felt the need to supplement racial etiquette with formal segregation. In the countryside, daily life and patterns of racial interaction remained largely unchanged from the late 19th century well into the 20th.

The Rural Face of White Supremacy

Prior to World War II, agriculture was the basis of the southern economy, and most Southerners—two-thirds, even as late as 1930—lived in rural areas. Whether defined as the eleven states of the former Confederacy or by more encompassing definitions that included states such as Kentucky and Oklahoma, the South was the poorest section of the United States and was still heavily dependent on a few staple crops, especially cotton, rice, and tobacco. The South’s farms “were still far smaller than the national average,” as historian John Boles summarizes, “and the majority of its farmers were impoverished, possessed little equipment or machinery, were poorly educated, and worked as landless tenant farmers or sharecroppers.” For many whites and an overwhelming majority of blacks, “there seemed to be no escape from the vagaries of the fluctuating prices that agricultural crops fetched, farmers’ debts, occasional drought and boll weevil infestation, and small, underequipped farms that offered no chance of profitability.”12

Within this scarcity economy, farm families produced as much of their own food as they could, growing corn and vegetables and keeping chickens and pigs. They also relied on their neighbors, bartering with each other and with rural merchants in a highly personalized system of exchange that was “both derived from and reinforced complex networks of dependency, patronage, and obligation.”13 Daily life centered on work, following the seasonal rhythms of cotton and other crops. Southerners also spent a significant amount of their time “visiting,” talking, negotiating, and otherwise maintaining their social networks, which were not only economically vital but also overlapped with kinship and religious ties and formed much of the basis for leisure activities as well.

In addition to defining same-race communities, this “culture of personalism” extended across race lines in ways that mostly reinforced rather than challenged white supremacy. As historian Mark Schultz explains in a valuable study of Hancock County, Georgia, a close look at rural southern society reveals a different picture than conventional views of the Jim Crow South that are based on urban areas. “Notable in their absence were systematic segregation, universal black disfranchisement, and ritualized public lynching. Instead, a wholly different mode of race relations operated in rural Hancock, one marked by personal intimacy, personal violence, and ritual displays of deference.”

Additionally, Schultz writes, “although some African Americans in the area knew grinding hunger and humiliation”—perhaps more than persisted in the county long enough for him to interview—“others experienced greater empowerment than is usually assumed to have been possible in a rural southern context.” Most important, some black farmers were able to acquire land. This was true of less than 10 percent of black farm families in Hancock County itself, but across the South as a whole the figure peaked at 25 percent.14

Daily Life in the Jim Crow South, 1900–1945Click to view larger

Figure 2. Dorothea Lange’s 1937 photograph of a Mississippi plantation owner with one of his tenants’ children suggests the degree of personal acquaintance that characterized interactions between blacks and whites in the rural South. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, LC-USF34- 017431-E.

Black empowerment in the rural South depended to an excruciating extent on white paternalism or at least tolerance. Even black landowners whose holdings gave them a measure of autonomy found it beneficial to maintain good relations with white families whose protection they hoped would prove reliable, along with a handy shotgun, against other whites who were more exploitative or violent. Unfortunately, paternalism was not only unreliable, but also a manifestation of white power that could work in the opposite way. Rural elites, especially landlords, could and did decide when to use economic coercion against blacks and when to give them some economic breathing room. They could decide when to employ private or state-sponsored violence and when to protect blacks from violence of either form. While individuals’ class status in the white community made a difference, those white men who were most secure in their social position also had the power to draw the color line in sexual relations with brutal force or to ignore it, in some cases allowing interracial couples to live together openly or acknowledging interracial kinship ties.15

Concerns about sexuality and safety are key to understanding how black and white women’s participation in the daily life and interracial social networks of the rural South differed from the participation of black and white men. Black families recognized the sexual vulnerability of their women and girls and preferred to keep them away from white men, if economic circumstances allowed it. Instead, most black women had to work in white households for at least some part of their lives, even if their primary occupation was farming alongside the rest of their family members. Meanwhile, white women were expected to keep their distance from black men and insist on clear demonstrations of social distance even when managing a black labor force required physical proximity. Thus, awareness of sexual danger factored into both black and white women’s daily experiences, although white men’s sense of entitlement and impunity from prosecution for rape meant the threat of unwanted sexual attention from across the color line was much more real for black women than for white.

Daily Life in the Jim Crow South, 1900–1945Click to view larger

Figure 3. In 1939, Marion Post Wolcott took dozens of photographs of two corn shuckings in Granville County, North Carolina—one at the farm of a white landowner, “Mr. Fred Wilkins,” and the second at the farm of one of his black tenants, “Uncle Henry Garrett.” Wolcott paid attention to how rural black and white women did and did not interact. “White women don’t go to Negro shucking to help with the cooking but whites are fed by Negro women just the same as at other shucking week previous,” she wrote. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, LC-USF33- 030691-M4.

Among women themselves, interactions between black and white could be more intimate, which sometimes allowed for a degree of personal warmth. Nevertheless, just as middle- and upper-class white women in the urban South might praise their black cooks and laundresses “while still regarding them as quite outside the boundaries of friendship and familiarity,” the same was true of rural white women across the social scale.16 Even relatively poor white families could often afford to hire black women and girls to help with laundry and other household work, and they prided themselves on their superior status. Interviewing white tenant farm women in the 1930s, sociologist Margaret Hagood found that “without exception every reference to Negroes was in keeping with the traditional pattern,” a pattern of racism that extended to all blacks regardless of their personal qualities or irreplaceable skills. “There were a number of mothers who expressed commendation or regard for individual colored women, usually ‘grannies’” (midwives), Hagood noted, “but there was no mistaking the ‘in their places’ qualification to any regard for them.”17 Historians do well to remember that “white women regardless of class benefited from, and derived their relatively privileged status from, the subordination of all black women,” cautions historian Jacqueline Jones. “Did individuals ever enjoy genuine friendships?,” she asks. “Again, we would have to avoid generalizations in an effort to suggest that some women enjoyed close, even intimate contact with women of a different race, but in most cases such contacts were short-lived (as among children), and always framed by the South’s political realities.”18

Southern politics did not merely frame women’s experiences but were also framed by them, particularly as white men asserted and white women agreed that the need to protect white womanhood required not only a lynching culture and practice but also black exclusion and segregation in public life.19 The growth of cities and towns in the late 19th and early 20th centuries added to whites’ anxiety. How could they control increasingly large, anonymous populations of black men and women who, unlike sharecroppers, were not under the direct supervision of individual whites? In the absence of the rural South’s traditional social networks of dependency and obligation, what could prevent African Americans from getting “out of their place”?

“Place” and Space in Cities and Towns

White authorities’ experience with free blacks in antebellum cities had already shown how difficult it was to command deference in an impersonal environment—to “legislate the master’s role,” in the words of historian Ira Berlin. But whites nonetheless tried, sometimes “codifying forms of racial deference often unspoken in the countryside.”20 In Richmond, for example, an antebellum city ordinance insisted that any slave or free black “meeting, or overtaking, or being overtaken by a white person on the sidewalk shall pass on the outside; and if necessary . . . shall immediately get off the sidewalk.” Other cities forbade blacks to walk in central squares or publicly smoke or carry canes (symbols of authority and manhood).21 Unless they were obviously slaves accompanying their masters (or they were managing to “pass” as white), African Americans were simply excluded from hotels, restaurants, theaters, and other public facilities. The same rule applied to train cars in that slaves traveling with their masters were allowed to sit (but not dine) in the same car at the master’s discretion. Meanwhile, free blacks traveling on their own were usually admitted but had to show papers attesting to their freedom and were expected to defer to white passengers and railroad personnel.

They were also expected to sit somewhere other than the “ladies’ car.” Railroads began offering a separate, cleaner, more comfortable car for elite women and their male escorts in the 1840s, not because any law required it but because of accepted class and gender norms. After emancipation, some—especially educated, middle-class—black women’s expectations to be treated according to such norms and whites’ determination to preserve them for whites only proved crucial to the development of legal segregation. As historian Barbara Welke has shown, between 1855 and 1914 black women sued railroads for denying them first-class accommodations even more often than black men did, and they had a more compelling claim because of their gender and the tradition of the ladies’ car. Yet even though many of these black female plaintiffs won their individual battles prior to the 1880s, they and the entire black population lost the war against inferior treatment when southern states responded by passing laws segregating railroad cars not by gender but by race. In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Louisiana train segregation law and the specious principle of “separate but equal” in the landmark case Plessy v. Ferguson. By 1900, every southern state had enacted laws segregating railroad cars and stations, and many would extend legal segregation to streetcars and buses, making transportation one of the most consistently segregated features of early 20th-century Southerners’ daily lives.22

Still, it is important not to overstate the legal codification of Jim Crow. Although southern states passed far more segregation laws in the early 1900s than had existed in any earlier era, much was left to custom and habitus, as enforced by laws against trespassing, disorderly conduct, and the like. Thus, when an Alabama assistant attorney general surveyed his state’s segregation statutes in 1942, for example, he found that most state-funded and some county-level institutions such as jails and poor houses were segregated by law—although segregation at state universities and mental hospitals was merely administrative policy, not legally mandated. State laws also forbade interracial sex and made it illegal for white nurses to tend to black men. In the area of transportation, there was a state law requiring the segregation of railroad cars and stations, but it specifically exempted municipal trolley lines. The many other features of the Alabama landscape that were, in fact, segregated—restaurants and cafes, theaters, elevators, taxis, and water fountains—were not segregated on a statewide legal basis but by city ordinances or individual property owners who excluded or separated the races as they saw fit.23 Those property owners were mostly white but included African Americans such as the proprietor of a Belle Glade, Florida, juke joint who posted a sign that read “Colored Only” followed by “Police Order”—a seemingly unambiguous message that nonetheless raises questions. Did the painter of this sign mention the police order because the owner of the juke joint had gotten into trouble for serving whites alongside blacks or because he had found it difficult to exclude whites (perhaps white men looking for sex as well as music and alcohol) on his own authority?24

Daily Life in the Jim Crow South, 1900–1945Click to view larger

Figure 4. Marion Post Wolcott’s 1941 photograph of a Belle Glade, Florida, juke joint does not include the “Colored Only/Police Order” sign that would be posted on the building by 1945. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, LC-USF35-174.

By the early 1900s, signs, barriers, and separate entrances became increasingly important means of designating and, indeed, creating spaces as “black” or “white.” The hand-lettered inked or painted signs that had begun to appear with greater frequency in the 1880s and 1890s were supplemented over time with mass-produced metal and porcelain signs that, by the 1940s, could be purchased at national chain stores like Woolworth’s as well as local hardware and supply stores across the South. Architects also incorporated segregation into their plans, sometimes designing two separate facilities, as when Richland County, South Carolina, remodeled its Columbia Hospital in the 1940s, commissioning a smaller hospital for blacks two blocks away from the main, whites-only site. Or, if blacks and whites were to be accommodated under the same roof, designers might ensure that not only seating areas—in a movie theater, for example—but also the routes leading to and from them were separate. An architect’s 1938 drawings for the Ambassador Theater in Raleigh, North Carolina, show a “maze of passageways [that] would have been incomprehensible” without written labels, as design historian Elizabeth Guffey notes. She and other historians of the built environment have examined the importance of structures and signage to black and white Southerners’ “wayfinding” in the Jim Crow era—the dynamic, cognitive, and physical process by which individuals navigated the southern urban environment. Although the consequences for getting “lost,” either physically or socially, could include deadly violence, “Jim Crow space was piecemeal and fraught with inconsistency” as settings such as sidewalks, bus stops, and train platforms proved difficult to regulate25 (Figure 5). On streetcars and buses, white and black passengers were often expected to load from the front and back respectively, with a shifting border between them as people of each race entered and exited. A divider or sign that the driver could slide along the length of the car provided some guidance but also illustrates how important it was for African Americans who did not want to be harassed to know the rules—at least the general rules of deference at the heart of racial etiquette—before they ever boarded.

Daily Life in the Jim Crow South, 1900–1945Click to view larger

Figure 5. Esther Bubley’s 1943 photograph of wartime crowding at the Greyhound terminal in Memphis suggests how difficult it was for white authorities to enforce strict segregation in transitional spaces such as bus platforms. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, LC-USW3- 037986-E.

In short, even as laws, signs, and separate entrances shaped the southern landscape, no one, especially no African American, could rely solely or even primarily on geographical markers to navigate the treacherous terrain of white supremacy. Instead, Jim Crow remained foremost a human drama—one in which knowing the characters or at least the scene was crucial to blacks’ very survival. The racial etiquette that had evolved from slavery provided a general script, but black Southerners could take nothing for granted, and those living in cities and towns had to deal with a larger number of whites in a wider variety of circumstances than most rural blacks would ever encounter. Some situations and relationships were fairly clear-cut, such as expectations on the job, while others were harder to predict but sometimes offered new possibilities for resistance.

Work, Consumption, and Institution-Building

As in farming districts, daily life in early 20th-century cities and towns revolved around work, which was highly segregated by gender as well as race. Although a professional and business class existed on each side of the color line, the majority of both blacks and whites were workers whose day-to-day experiences were shaped by the occupational hierarchies of the South’s emerging industrial and commercial spheres. For example, the textile mills that drove industrialization in the Piedmont South employed only whites, including women and girls, for skilled and semiskilled, machine-tending jobs (Figure 6).

Daily Life in the Jim Crow South, 1900–1945Click to view larger

Figure 6. These sociable white women were the first to arrive for the second shift at a Greene County, Georgia, textile mill where Jack Delano set up his camera in the spring of 1941. Factory work and other occupations were segregated by gender as well as race. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, LC-USF33-020950-M5.

To promote racial loyalty among white workers, bosses refused to hire black women and relegated black men to unskilled, physically demanding work away from the factory floor.26 Whites had also pushed black men out of trades like carpentry and masonry after emancipation and had prevented them from entering new occupations such as electrical work and plumbing. Apart from doing unskilled physical labor, often on an irregular basis, black men living in urban areas found employment mainly in service work for white families or as porters, bellhops, elevator operators, and delivery boys. To make an adequate income, many had to leave their wives and children to find jobs in the countryside, in lumber and turpentine camps or on railroad construction crews. Meanwhile, the majority of black women had to work for wages to make ends meet and typically had few options other than domestic work in white homes.27

Interactions between black workers and white bosses could be extremely frustrating, but the expectations and power dynamics were usually fairly clear. For many African Americans, other day-to-day activities such as shopping in the expanding commercial districts of early 20th-century southern cities and towns were more complicated because they could not be sure what to expect. White clerks and customers were often rude and sometimes demanded elaborate displays of deference that could include not only waiting for all white customers to be served, but also holding the door for them as they entered and left. Yet at other times and in other stores, blacks were able to assert the dignity they felt not only as human beings who resisted the white supremacist habitus but also, more specifically, as consumers—paying customers—whose money ought to give them worth. “Sometimes the way they greeted you when you went into a store was embarrassing,” an Atlanta physician recalled. “Some would call you nigger. Some would say: How to do boy! . . . Oh, it would make you angry but after awhile you’d get used to it and go about your business.” Or you might go to a competitor such as Bass Dry Goods on Atlanta’s West Mitchell Street, whose Jewish proprietor stayed in business by keeping prices low and greeting his black customers by name and with the courtesy titles “Mr.” and “Mrs.”28

Daily Life in the Jim Crow South, 1900–1945Click to view larger

Figure 7. This black farmer from Florence County, South Carolina, might have been buying fatback from the same white country store clerk for years. Shopping in a big-city store was a less predictable experience, but at least black consumers in cities and towns had more stores to choose from if they were treated badly. Photograph by Cox, Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, LC-USF34-015761-D.

In short, the early 20th-century South’s burgeoning consumer culture “created spaces,” as historian Grace Hale argues, “in which African Americans could challenge segregation, both explicitly and implicitly.” When white Southerners first encountered the problem of black consumer power in the form of female passengers suing railroads for denying them access to the ladies’ car, their response was to segregate, “removing this troubling figure from sight.”29 But this solution would not hold up as consumer culture and other forces of modernization integrated the South more fully into larger American patterns. During and after World War II, segregated consumer spaces such as lunch counters would prove comparatively easy targets for civil rights activists, first outside and eventually within the South.30

The success of the long civil rights movement that finally ended the system of segregation depended heavily on the strength of black organizations and institutions. For both blacks and whites, many aspects of daily life involved only same-race interactions. This was true of many leisure activities, especially noncommercial ones that took place in private and semiprivate spaces, and it was true of participating in voluntary associations and attending church and school. African Americans had moved quickly to establish their own churches after emancipation. As historian Joel Williamson recounts, Sunday morning connections “ended with amazing rapidity as black members withdrew from white churches” and “black churches that had been physically separated but under white supervision also established their independence.” In addition, there were new churchgoers among the freedmen and new options. Two black denominations that had been largely excluded from the South, the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Church Zion, drew several hundred thousand members, and, by 1868, the “whole process” of racial separation in southern churches “was practically completed.”31

The immediate post-emancipation years also saw the creation of separate black and white schools. Like the founding of black churches, the establishment of black schools demonstrated the desire of former slaves for autonomy as well as advancement. In the words of historian James D. Anderson, their “educational movement became a test of their capacity to restructure their lives, to establish their freedom.”32 White southerners were so hostile to the very idea of black education that integrated schools were never much of a possibility or even a goal for African Americans in this era (though many late 19th-century black schools were, in fact, “integrated” in that white missionaries often served as teachers). Instead, as blacks’ demands for education helped push Reconstruction-era governments to create public school systems, segregation was written into state laws. A Virginia statute passed in 1870 stated simply that “white and colored children shall not be taught in the same school.” As Wallenstein notes, “every one of the seventeen southern states used much the same language in specifying the ban on integration. All but Arkansas and Maryland placed such stipulations in their constitutions. Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Tennessee went farther, enforcing the same ban against private schools and (with the exception of Tennessee) imposing fines on teachers in schools that admitted both black and white students.”33 Although segregated public schools would be the battleground for civil rights activists’ critical victory in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, school segregation was actually one of the oldest, most entrenched forms of de jure segregation and one that had to do with black institution-building and separatism in addition to white attitudes.

Segregated schools are also one of the places where the simple inadequacy of the South’s biracial model—its ill fit with reality, much less social justice—is most visible to historians. What did the legal categories of “black” and “white” actually mean, and where could children who fit neither category go to school?

Not Simply Black and White

“Segregation statutes passed in the aftermath of Reconstruction made few references to Indians,” observes historian Theda Purdue, and the same is true for other people of color who were neither “white” nor “Negro.” The purpose of such laws, after all, was “to protect whiteness and white power,” as Purdue writes. “Lumping all people of color together achieved the goal of preserving white racial purity and strengthening white control of southern economic and political life.”34 Or at least it seemed to, until Indians and other “others” insisted on additional splitting rather than lumping or on being lumped with whites rather than blacks. Meanwhile, the reality of racial mixing in the South, past and present, required elites to try repeatedly to define what “whiteness” actually was. (It was having “no trace whatsoever of any blood other than Caucasian,” according to Virginia’s rigid Racial Integrity Act of 1924—a law that nonetheless came with its own “Pocahontas exception” to protect the descendants of some of the oldest and most elite “white” families in the state by adding that “persons who have one-sixteenth or less of the blood of the American Indian and have no other non-Caucasic blood” were “deemed to be white persons” as well).35

As Virginia’s legal loophole suggests, white authorities preferred to think of Native American identity as a thing of the past rather than the 20th-century present. Although several southern states recognized American Indians as a distinct racial category—most often in antimiscegenation laws—only North Carolina consistently provided public schools specifically for Indian children.36 For Indians to win such schools required legislative efforts. In 1887, for example, an eastern North Carolina legislator sponsored a bill to appropriate funds for a school for Robeson County children “whom he identified as ‘Croatan Indians,’ descended in part from the ‘Lost Colony’ at Roanoke Island in the 1580s. Rejected by whites and themselves rejecting an identity with blacks, they had a place in neither set of schools in the state’s new system.” Even after the legislature approved the proposal, failure to act on it required a further effort, this time for an institution that would offer normal school training in addition to elementary and high school classes. The Croatan Normal School became a community institution that helped Robeson County Native Americans, now known as Lumbee Indians, sustain a separate and independent identity. By the 1940s, the school had transformed into Pembroke State College for Indians, the only state-supported, four-year college for Native Americans in the United States. In 1953, the North Carolina state legislature gave the college permission “to admit ‘any persons of the Indian or white races’; and in 1954, in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education, it promptly ended black exclusion.” More than sixty years later, the college still exists as the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.37

Unlike Native Americans, Asians in the South rarely had sufficient numbers to form truly separate communities (Figure 8). Chinese families in Mississippi, for example, sent their children to white public schools until the presence of Martha and Berda Lum at an elementary school in the town of Rosedale in 1924 resulted in a Mississippi Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the state’s “broad dominant purpose of preserving the purity and integrity of the white race.” The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Mississippi judgment that required the two little girls to go to “the colored public schools” or a private school. But the Lum family chose instead to relocate across the Mississippi River to Arkansas, where their daughters could again be “white” as far as the public schools were concerned. Other families worked out other solutions until, somehow, at some point between the late 1930s and the early 1950s, Chinese schoolchildren once again became “white”—or “white” enough—in the eyes of most white Mississippians.38

Daily Life in the Jim Crow South, 1900–1945Click to view larger

Figure 8. Like the Lum family, Chinese grocer Joe Gow Nue was trying to make his way in the Mississippi Delta. Marion Post Wolcott took this photograph of his store in 1939. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, LC-USF34- 052450-D.

And so it went to live Jim Crow. The inconsistencies and complexities of the system require dynamic metaphors and close attention to lived experience. Jim Crow went well beyond “black and white” in the sense that it encompassed much more than written law, just as it encompassed people of all races in one way or another as whites tried to secure white supremacy. If the “etiquette” of slavery that persisted from the 19th century far into the 20th is now gone in 21st-century America, whites’ expectations that blacks behave according to white-established norms are not.

Another key feature of daily life in the Jim Crow South was surveillance. As Neil McMillen explains, “whites were forever monitoring the behavior of both races, watching for the telltale transgressions that betrayed the ‘nigger lover’ and the ‘uppity nigger.’”39 In the present-day South—and across the United States—white authorities still watch African Americans with a critical eye and arrest and incarcerate them at astonishing rates. Patterns of daily life have changed dramatically, especially in the rural South as a result of the steep decline in agricultural work after World War II. And yet, as historians such as Michelle Alexander and Stephen Berrey have shown, a “New Jim Crow” of mass incarceration has been decades in the making.40

Discussion of the Literature

C. Vann Woodward launched the study of the Jim Crow South with The Strange Career of Jim Crow in 1955. Writing in the wake of the Brown decision, Woodward pointed to the comparative absence of segregation laws prior to the 1890s and highlighted evidence of “forgotten alternatives” largely because he wanted to lend support to contemporary demands for social change. What became known as the Woodward thesis stated “first, that racial segregation in the South in the rigid and universal form it had taken by 1954 did not appear with the end of slavery, but toward the end of the century and later; and second, that before it appeared in this form there occurred an era of experiment and variety in race relations of the South in which segregation was not the invariable rule.”41 Almost immediately, other historians challenged Woodward’s claims by showing that segregation, including legal segregation, had existed in the antebellum North, in the cities of the antebellum South, and in Reconstruction-era South Carolina.42 Howard Rabinowitz described a significant amount of segregation in southern cities prior to 1890 and argued persuasively that segregation replaced exclusion, not flexibility or openness.43 John Cell’s comparative study of the U.S. South and South Africa showed that segregation, while certainly in place earlier than Woodward had indicated, was primarily a modern, urban approach to maintaining racial dominance.44 By the late 1980s, Woodward himself was prepared to admit that historical analysis of the Jim Crow South “got started off on the wrong foot” because of his decision “to put the question of when before the questions where and how, giving to time priority over circumstance and placing the chronology before the sociology and demography of the subject.”45

Although it has been important to avoid overemphasizing chronology and de jure forms of segregation, an even more significant factor in changing historians’ interpretations of the Jim Crow South has been their increasing engagement with black perspectives. The 1980s and 1990s saw tremendous growth in the field of African American history and in works of southern history that take black sources and black agency into account.46 By the year 2000, a new generation of historians had come to see a southern past in which white supremacy, “the ‘central theme’ of southern history,” remained central but was not understood as an overwhelming force. “Shifting the focus from white to black southerners reveals a new definition of continuity and change,” as Jane Dailey, Glenda Gilmore, and Bryant Simon observe in an important collection of essays indicative of the new scholarship. Throughout the long period from emancipation through the civil rights movement, “black resistance, not white supremacy, was continuous, while white supremacy remodeled itself to meet any challenge.”47

Historians’ accounts of black resistance and the perpetual remodeling of white supremacy have revealed many of the contours of everyday life in the Jim Crow era. Much of the scholarship on black political struggles emphasizes the extent to which they were rooted in the daily lives and labors of black Southerners.48 Gendered political histories such as Nancy MacLean’s study of the Athens, Georgia, Ku Klux Klan and Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore’s analysis of the politics of disfranchisement in North Carolina also root their subjects in family and community contexts.49 Meanwhile, there is extensive scholarship on black and white Southerners’ work experiences, both on and off the farm, and on education, religion, leisure activities, and other daily life topics.50

The cultural turn in historical studies has also yielded scholarship of particular interest. Some historians have drawn on anthropological approaches to culture and described the daily dramas of racial domination and subordination, including their power to shape the racial identities of children.51 Others have explored the role of sight, smell, and the other senses to consider how “race” is made or have examined segregated spaces along with other literary and nonliterary “texts” to develop a deeper understanding of southern “whiteness.”52 Recent, interdisciplinary work has focused on segregated landscapes and the “visual politics” of Jim Crow.53 There is also some work on the Jim Crow experiences of Native Americans and other people of color besides African Americans, although much more research is needed to understand the impact of white supremacists’ attempts to impose a biracial model on a mixed and multiracial world.54

The question of how people who were neither black nor white experienced Jim Crow relates to an additional question for further research: How did racial restrictions in the South compare, contrast, and fit into the national context of white supremacy? Thomas Sugrue and others have documented forgotten struggles for civil rights outside the South. Further scholarship is needed to explore what daily life in the United States was like for people of color prior to those phases of struggle and how U.S. racial culture compared to the southern culture of Jim Crow.55 Historians also need to understand more about how segregation ended—and to what extent its end was merely another phase in white supremacy’s perpetual remodeling.56

Primary Sources

The richest descriptions of daily life in the Jim Crow South tend to come from outside observers and individuals reflecting on their lives in memoirs and oral histories. Classic first-person narratives of Jim Crow experiences include Richard Wright’s essay “The Ethics of Living Jim Crow” and Lillian Smith’s Killers of the Dream. For researchers looking for a broad range of accounts, John Inscoe provides an extensive bibliography of southern life-writing in Writing the South through the Self: Explorations in Southern Autobiography.57 Hundreds of oral histories are available online from the Southern Oral History Program and the Behind the Veil collection. The Black Women Oral History Project includes a number of interviewees from the South, and many other local, state, and university-based oral history projects have captured voices from the region. An older but useful published collection is Susan Tucker’s Telling Memories among Southern Women: Domestic Workers and Their Employers in the Segregated South.58

An especially noteworthy source on rural life that straddles the line between autobiography and oral history is All God’s Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw, which historian Theodore Rosengarten compiled from interviews with Alabama sharecropper Ned Cobb in the 1960s.59 Sharecroppers’ lives are also well documented in photographs from the Depression years. In addition to Dorothea Lange, Marion Post Wolcott, and other Farm Security Administration photographers, who captured both rural and urban scenes, Margaret Bourke-White traveled in the rural South with Erskine Caldwell in 1936 for the photodocumentary book You Have Seen Their Faces, and Walker Evans spent several weeks in Alabama with James Agee for their classic Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.60 There is also the equivalent of a lost photodocumentary book from the 1930s in the hundreds of never-published pictures that Alfred Eisenstaedt took in 1938, when Life magazine assigned him to do a photoessay on Jonathan Daniels’s insightful, best-selling travel narrative, A Southerner Discovers the South.61

Social scientists who studied the South during the Great Depression also provide fascinating glimpses of daily life. Hortense Powdermaker’s After Freedom: A Cultural History of the Deep South and John Dollard’s Caste and Class in a Southern Town both focus on Mississippi. Also worth a look are Charles S. Johnson’s Growing Up in the Black Belt; Allison Davis, Burleigh B. Gardner, and Mary R. Gardner’s Deep South: A Social Anthropological Study of Caste and Class; and Margaret Jarman Hagood’s Mothers of the South: Portraiture of the White Tenant Farm Woman. A similar set of sources for an earlier period can be found in the Atlanta University Publications, studies on a variety of topics that were overseen mostly by W. E. B. Du Bois in the period from 1896 to 1917.62

For travel literature from 1865 on, Thomas D. Clark’s Travels in the New South is a helpful bibliography. Sterling A. Brown’s A Negro Looks at the South, edited by John Edgar Tidwell and Mark A. Sanders, makes available the previously unpublished work of a particularly reflective traveler. While Brown traveled mostly by train, the annual Negro Motorist Green Book makes clear the difficulties of automobile travel through a segregated environment.63

An invaluable resource on the legal framework governing daily life in the Jim Crow South is Pauli Murray’s States’ Laws on Race and Color. Jane Dailey’s The Age of Jim Crow is a rich document collection that spans from 1865 to 1980.64

Further Reading

Abel, Elizabeth. Signs of the Times: The Visual Politics of Jim Crow. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Ayers, Edward L. The Promise of the New South: Life after Reconstruction. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.Find this resource:

Berrey, Stephen A. The Jim Crow Routine: Everyday Performances of Race, Civil Rights, and Segregation in Mississippi. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Chafe, William H., et al. Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell about Life in the Segregated South. New York: New Press, 2001.Find this resource:

Cobb, James C. The Most Southern Place on Earth: The Mississippi Delta and the Roots of Regional Identity. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.Find this resource:

Cole, Stephanie, and Natalie J. Ring, eds. The Folly of Jim Crow: Rethinking the Segregated South. Introduction by W. Fitzhugh Brundage. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Dailey, Jane, Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, and Bryant Simon, eds. Jumpin’ Jim Crow: Southern Politics from Civil War to Civil Rights. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.Find this resource:

Gilmore, Glenda Elizabeth. Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896–1920. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.Find this resource:

Grossman, James R. Land of Hope: Chicago, Black Southerners, and the Great Migration. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.Find this resource:

Hahn, Steven. A Nation under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003.Find this resource:

Hale, Grace Elizabeth. Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890–1940. New York: Pantheon, 1998.Find this resource:

Hall, Jacquelyn Dowd, et al. Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987.Find this resource:

Harris, J. William. Deep Souths: Delta, Piedmont, and Sea Island Society in the Age of Segregation. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.Find this resource:

Hunter, Tera W. To ‘Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women’s Lives and Labors after the Civil War. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.Find this resource:

Jones, Jacqueline. Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and Family from Slavery to the Present. New York: Basic Books, 1985.Find this resource:

Kelley, Blair L. M. Right to Ride: Streetcar Boycotts and African American Citizenship in the Era of Plessy v. Ferguson. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Kelley, Robin D. G. “‘We Are Not What We Seem’: Rethinking Black Working-Class Opposition in the Jim Crow South.” Journal of American History 80 (June 1993): 75–112.Find this resource:

Litwack, Leon F. Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow. New York: Knopf, 1998.Find this resource:

McMillen, Neil R. Dark Journey: Black Mississippians in the Age of Jim Crow. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989.Find this resource:

Ownby, Ted. Subduing Satan: Religion, Recreation, and Manhood in the Rural South, 1865–1920. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990.Find this resource:

Ritterhouse, Jennifer. Growing Up Jim Crow: How Black and White Southern Children Learned Race. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Schultz, Mark. The Rural Face of White Supremacy: Beyond Jim Crow. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005.Find this resource:

Sharpless, Rebecca. Cooking in Other Women’s Kitchens: Domestic Workers in the South, 1865–1960. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Smith, Mark M. How Race Is Made: Slavery, Segregation, and the Senses. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Tolnay, Stewart E. The Bottom Rung: African American Family Life on Southern Farms. Urbana: University of Illinois, 1999.Find this resource:

Weise, Julie. Corazón de Dixie: Mexicanos in the U.S. South since 1910. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2015.Find this resource:


(1.) Bertram Wilbur Doyle, The Etiquette of Race Relations in the South: A Study in Social Control (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1937).

(2.) Neil R. McMillen, Dark Journey: Black Mississippians in the Age of Jim Crow (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989), 28. There is extensive scholarship on lynching. For a recent review of the literature, see Kathleen Belew, “Lynching and Power in the United States: Southern, Western, and National Vigilante Violence,” History Compass 12 (January 2014): 84–99.

(3.) Jennifer Ritterhouse, “The Etiquette of Race Relations,” in Manners and Southern History, ed. Ted Ownby (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2007), 24.

(4.) John F. Kasson, “Taking Manners Seriously,” in Manners and Southern History, 156.

(5.) Richard Wright, Black Boy (American Hunger): A Record of Childhood and Youth (New York: HarperPerennial, 1993), 218.

(6.) Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, Revolt Against Chivalry: Jessie Daniel Ames and the Women’s Campaign Against Lynching (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), 142.

(7.) Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself, eds. William L. Andrews and William G. McFeely (New York: Norton, 1997), 53–54.

(8.) Jane Dailey, “Is Marriage a Civil Right? The Politics of Intimacy in the Jim Crow Era,” in The Folly of Jim Crow: Rethinking the Segregated South, eds. Stephanie Cole and Natalie Ring (College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 2012), 181.

(9.) Peter Wallenstein, “Identity, Marriage, and Schools: Life along the Color Line/s in the Era of Plessy v. Ferguson,” in Folly of Jim Crow, 18.

(10.) Whitelaw Reid, After the War, quoted in Leon F. Litwack, Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery (New York: Vintage, 1979), 257.

(11.) Jennifer Ritterhouse, Growing Up Jim Crow: How Black and White Southern Children Learned Race (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 37–38.

(12.) John B. Boles, The South Through Time: A History of an American Region, vol. II, 3d ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004), 457–458.

(13.) Alex Lichtenstein, “Ned Cobb’s Children: A New Look at White Supremacy in the Rural Southern US,” Journal of Peasant Studies 33, no. 1 (January 2006): 128.

(14.) Schultz, Rural Face of White Supremacy, 5, 45–48.

(15.) These sentences paraphrase Lichtenstein’s forceful articulation of the power dynamics of personalism in “Ned Cobb’s Children,” 126.

(16.) Jacqueline Jones, “Encounters, Likely and Unlikely, Between Black and Poor White Women in the Rural South, 1865–1940,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 76, no. 2 (Summer 1992): 348.

(17.) Margaret Jarman Hagood, Mothers of the South: Portraiture of the White Tenant Farm Woman (1939; Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1996), 178–179.

(18.) Jones, “Encounters, Likely and Unlikely,” 353.

(19.) For a brilliant analysis of how gender framed politics in one southern state, see Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, Gender and Jim Crow: Women and the Politics of White Supremacy in North Carolina, 1896–1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996).

(20.) Ira Berlin, Slaves Without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South (New York: Pantheon, 1975), 320.

(21.) Ritterhouse, Growing Up Jim Crow, 34.

(22.) Barbara Y. Welke, “When All the Women Were White, and All the Blacks Were Men: Gender, Class, Race, and the Road to Plessy, 1855–1914,” Law and History Review 13, no. 2 (Fall 1995): 277, 311. See also Mia Bay, “‘From the ‘Ladies’ Car’ to the ‘Colored Car’: Black Female Travelers in the Segregated South,” in The Folly of Jim Crow, 150–175.

(23.) J. Mills Thornton III, “Segregation and the City: White Supremacy in Alabama in the Mid-Twentieth Century,” in Fog of War: The Second World War and the Civil Rights Movement, eds. Kevin M. Kruse and Stephen Tuck (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 52.

(24.) That this juke joint was black-owned is indicated in Elizabeth Guffey, “Knowing Their Space: Signs of Jim Crow in the Segregated South,” Design Issues 28, no. 2 (Spring 2012): 55.

(25.) Guffey, “Knowing Their Space,” 55–56, 47–48.

(26.) Jacquelyn Dowd Hall et al., Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987), 66–67.

(27.) Boles, South Through Time, 428.

(28.) Ritterhouse, Growing Up Jim Crow, 44.

(29.) Grace Elizabeth Hale, Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890–1940 (New York: Pantheon, 1998), 125.

(30.) On the civil rights movement outside the South, see Thomas J. Sugrue, Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North (New York: Random House, 2009).

(31.) Joel Williamson, The Crucible of Race: Black-White Relations in the American South Since Emancipation (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), 251.

(32.) James D. Anderson, The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860–1935 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988), 12.

(33.) Wallenstein, “Identity, Marriage, and Schools,” 26.

(34.) Theda Purdue, “Southern Indians and Jim Crow,” in Folly of Jim Crow, 55.

(35.) Brendan Wolfe, “Racial Integrity Laws (1924–1930),” Encyclopedia Virginia, accessed August 30, 2017.

(36.) Purdue, “Southern Indians and Jim Crow,” 55.

(37.) Wallenstein, “Identity, Marriage, and Schools,” 31–32.

(38.) Wallenstein, “Identity, Marriage, and Schools,” 33–34.

(39.) McMillen, Dark Journey, 29.

(40.) Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: New Press, 2012); and Stephen A. Berrey, The Jim Crow Routine: Everyday Performances of Race, Civil Rights, and Segregation in Mississippi (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015).

(41.) C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow, 3rd rev. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974). The concise statement of the Woodward thesis quoted here comes from Woodward’s American Counterpoint: Slavery and Racism in the North-South Dialogue (Boston: Little, Brown, 1971), 237. See also Howard N. Rabinowitz, “More Than the Woodward Thesis: Assessing The Strange Career of Jim Crow,” Journal of American History 75 (December 1988): 842–856.

(42.) Leon F. Litwack, North of Slavery: The Negro in the Free States, 1790–1860 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961); Richard C. Wade, Slavery in the Cities: The South, 1820–1860 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964); and Joel Williamson, After Slavery: The Negro in South Carolina during Reconstruction, 1861–1877 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1965).

(43.) Howard N. Rabinowitz, Race Relations in the Urban South, 1865–1890 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978).

(44.) John W. Cell, The Highest Stage of White Supremacy: The Origins of Segregation in South Africa and the American South (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982).

(45.) C. Vann Woodward, “Strange Career Critics: Long May They Persevere,” Journal of American History 75 (December 1988): 857.

(46.) Of particular interest in relation to daily life in the early 20th century are Jacqueline Jones, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work, and Family from Slavery to the Present (New York: Basic Books, 1985); McMillen, Dark Journey; Leon F. Litwack, Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow (New York: Knopf, 1998); and Tera W. Hunter, To ‘Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women’s Lives and Labors after the Civil War (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997). See also Edward L. Ayers, The Promise of the New South: Life after Reconstruction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992); and James C. Cobb, The Most Southern Place on Earth: The Mississippi Delta and the Roots of Regional Identity (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992).

(47.) Jane Dailey, Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, and Bryant Simon, eds., Jumpin’ Jim Crow: Southern Politics from Civil War to Civil Rights (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000), 5.

(48.) On the significance of seemingly small or ordinary acts, see especially Kelley, “‘We Are Not What We Seem.’”

(49.) Nancy MacLean, Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994); and Gilmore, Gender and Jim Crow.

(50.) All of these topics and more are addressed in the extensive bibliographic essay provided in William J. Cooper Jr., Thomas E. Terrill, and Christopher Childers, The American South: A History, vol. II, 5th ed. (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2016), 911–962.

(51.) Ritterhouse, Growing Up Jim Crow; and Berrey, Jim Crow Routine. See also Jane Dailey, “Deference and Violence in the Postbellum Urban South: Manners and Massacres in Danville, Virginia,” Journal of Southern History 63 (August 1997): 553–590; and J. William Harris, “Etiquette, Lynching, and Racial Boundaries in Southern History: A Mississippi Example,” American Historical Review 100 (April 1995): 387–410.

(52.) Mark M. Smith, How Race Is Made: Slavery, Segregation, and the Senses (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006); Hale, Making Whiteness; and Steven Hoelscher, “Making Place, Making Race: Performances of Whiteness in the Jim Crow South,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 93, no. 3 (September 2003): 657–686.

(53.) Elizabeth Abel, Signs of the Times: The Visual Politics of Jim Crow (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010); Guffey, “Knowing Their Space”; and William E. O’Brien, Landscape of Exclusion: State Parks and Jim Crow in the American South (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2016).

(54.) Wallenstein, “Identity, Marriage, and Schools”; “Perdue, “Southern Indians and Jim Crow”; Malinda Maynor Lowery, Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2010); Henry Knight, “‘Savages of Southern Sunshine’: Racial Realignment of the Seminoles in the Selling of Jim Crow Florida,” Journal of American Studies 48, no. 1 (February 2014): 251–273; and Leslie Bow, “Racial Interstitiality and the Anxieties of the ‘Partly Colored’: Representations of Asians under Jim Crow,” Journal of Asian American Studies 10, no. 1 (February 2007): 1–30.

(55.) On the work of Sugrue and other scholars and this question of regional comparisons, see Alex Lichtenstein, “The Other Civil Rights Movement and the Problem of Southern Exceptionalism,” Journal of the Historical Society 9, no. 3 (September 2011): 351–376. Also crucial to any understanding of recent debates in civil rights scholarship is Jacquelyn Dowd Hall’s incisive essay, “The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past,” Journal of American History 91 (March 2005): 1233–1263.

(56.) For valuable insights on the transition from segregation to state-based surveillance and repressive forms of criminal justice in Mississippi, see Berrey, Jim Crow Routine.

(57.) Richard Wright, “The Ethics of Living Jim Crow,” in Uncle Tom’s Children (New York: Harper & Row, 1940); Lillian Smith, Killers of the Dream (New York: W. W. Norton, 1994); and John Inscoe, Writing the South Through the Self: Explorations in Southern Autobiography (Athens: University of Georgia, 2011).

(58.) Susan Tucker, Telling Memories among Southern Women: Domestic Workers and Their Employers in the Segregated South (New York: Schocken Books, 1988).

(59.) Theodore Rosengarten, All God’s Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw (New York: Vintage, 1974).

(60.) Erskine Caldwell and Margaret Bourke-White, You Have Seen Their Faces (1937; Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1995); and James Agee and Walker Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1941).

(61.) Jonathan Daniels, A Southerner Discovers the South (New York: Macmillan, 1938). On the subsequent trip with Eisenstaedt, see Jennifer Ritterhouse, Discovering the South: One Man’s Travels Through a Changing America in the 1930s (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017) and especially the companion website.

(62.) Hortense Powdermaker, After Freedom: A Cultural Study of the Deep South (1939; Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1993); John Dollard, Caste and Class in a Southern Town, 3rd ed. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Anchor, 1957); Charles S. Johnson, Growing Up in the Black Belt: Negro Youth in the Rural South (1941; New York: Schocken Books, 1967); Allison Davis, Burleigh B. Gardner, and Mary R. Gardner. Deep South: A Social Anthropological Study of Caste and Class (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1941); and Hagood, Mothers of the South; The Atlanta University Publications, reprint of nos. 1–2, 4, 8–9, 11, 13–18 (New York: Arno Press, 1968); The Atlanta University Publications, reprint of nos. 3, 5–7, 10, 12, 19, 20 (New York: Arno Press, 1969).

(63.) Thomas D. Clark, ed. Travels in the New South: A Bibliography (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1062); and John Edgar Tidwell and Mark A. Sanders, eds., Sterling A. Brown’s A Negro Looks at the South (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).

(64.) Pauli Murray, comp. and ed., States’ Laws on Race and Color (1951; Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1997).