The American Dark Ages

The American Dark Ages
Focus on 1880s-early 1900
Introduction to the American Dark Ages
 This time period was coined the American Dark Ages by
historian Rayford W. Logan due to an increased violence—
e.g., lynching—in the south based on race.
 Whites used a three pronged attack aimed at stopping
African Americans' participation in politics and the economy
and maintain white supremacy:
 1. Disenfranchisement—every southern state, between 1890 and
1905, passed laws designed specifically to prevent African
Americans from voting.
 2. Jim Crow Laws—In this same period, each southern state passed
laws formally segregating public facilities. It was in the 1890s that
the famous "white" and "colored" signs appeared.
 3. Lynching—In this same period, a campaign of lynching began,
targeting African American men especially
 In order to deter black men (and poor whites) from voting,
southern states created laws within their state constitutions:
 Poll tax—payment upon voting (usually being asked to pay back
 Literacy tests—(40-60% of blacks were illiterate) needing the ability to
read or write (to sign name, write candidate down, place in
appropriate box).
 Arbitrary registration practices
 Grandfather Clauses were created in order to allow anyone whose
grandfather voted pre-Civil War to bypass any sort of tax or test upon
 Aside from laws, blacks faced violence and possible fraud when
attempting to vote
 Intimidation or physical violence
 Having their vote for a non-white candidate thrown out
Jim Crow Laws
 Up until Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) the idea of “separate but
equal” was not law of the land in the south (although it existed
in some areas).
 Formal legal segregation became known as Jim Crow Laws
 The term Jim Crow comes from an American actor names
Thomas D. Rice who lived in the early to mid-1800s and who
would imitate black culture—speech, habits, songs—all in black
 Once segregation was made into law, specified in signs in
public places started popping up.
 Separate drinking fountains, bathrooms, restaurants, hotels, train
cars, and separate sections of beaches, parks and theaters.
 Lynching was a cruel combination of racism and sadism used to
sustain the caste system in the South.
 Most of the lynchings were by hanging or shooting.
 Other forms of lynching include: burning at the stake, maiming,
dismemberment, castration.
 Mississippi, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama were the
leading lynching states (had nearly half the total victims
 However, there were lynchings in ever state except MA, RI, NH and VT.
 Lynchings occurred most commonly in the smaller towns and
isolated rural communities of the South where people were poor
and mostly illiterate.
 Mobs were made up of small land holders, tenant farmers and
common laborers, whose economic status was very similar to that
of the Negro.
 According to the Tuskegee Institute, between 1882 and 1951,
4,730 people were lynched in the United States: 3,437 Negro and
1,293 white.
 Tuskegee records also show that between 1882 and1951:
 41 % felonious assault
 19.2 % rape
 6.1 % attempted rape
 4.9 % robbery and theft
 1.8 % for insult to white persons
 22.7 % for miscellaneous offenses
 Lynchers were rarely ever indicted by a grand jury or sentenced.
 Judge, prosecutor, jurors and witnesses were all white.
 If sentenced, the participants in the lynch mobs were usually
 William Brown recalls a Florida lynching in 1902.
Works Referenced