Historical Methodology

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Historical Methodology

The Strange Career of Jim Crow, by C. Van Woodward, traces the history of race relations in the United States from the mid and late nineteenth century through the twentieth century. In doing so Woodward brings to light significant aspects of Reconstruction that remain unknown to many today. He argues that the races were not as separate many people believe until the Jim Crow laws. To set up such an argument, Woodward first outlines the relationship between Southern and Northern whites, and African Americans during the nineteenth century. He then breaks down the details of the injustice brought about by the Jim Crow laws, and outlines the transformation in American society from discrimination to Civil Rights. Woodward’s argument is very persuasive because he uses specific evidence to support his opinions and to connect his ideas. Considering the time period in which the book and its editions were written, it should be praised for its insight into and analysis of the most important social issue in American history.

From the beginning of the book, Woodward argues that prior to Jim Crow, segregation in the Southern states was not as strong as many assume. To support this claim he cites Slavery in the Cities, where author Richard C. Wade provides evidence for segregation while at the same time states that, “‘In every city in Dixie…blacks and whites lived side by side, sharing the same premises if not equal facilities and living constantly in each other’s presence.’”[1] In the rural areas during slavery, African Americans and whites also had a large amount of social interaction, because, as Woodward explains, “control was best maintained by a large degree of physical contact and association.”[2]

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...better in the 1950’s. [22] Given the historical context in which the book was written, its popular reception, its persuasiveness, and the realities of the history of race relations which it exposes, the book’s significance cannot be denied.

[1] C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow. (Oxford University Press: New York, 1955), 14.

[2] Woodward, 22.

[3] Woodward, 19.

[4] Woodward, 21.

[5] Woodward, 37.

[6] Woodward, 53-54.

[7] Woodward, 54.

[8] Woodward, 65.

[9] Woodward, 69.

[10] Woodward, 71.

[11] Woodward, 72-73.

[12] Woodward, 130-132.

[13] Woodward, 81.

[14] Woodward, 98.

[15] Woodward, 115.

[16] Woodward, 118.

[17] Woodward, 119.

[18] Woodward, 128.

[19] Woodward, 174.

[20] William S. McFeely, The Strange Career of Jim Crow, Afterword, 224

[21] McFeely, 227.

[22] McFeely, 224.
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