In Search of African America:  One Collector's Experience January 17-March 21, 2004

The withdrawal of the U.S. Army from the south in 1877 marked the end of emancipation for African Americans. To be sure, black people were no longer slaves in the eyes of the law but they remained slaves in the eyes of society.

The era of Jim Crow, as the last two decades of the century came to be called, were years of oppression for black people. Without the military to protect them, blacks were stripped of their rights by the white ruling class.

In fact, most African Americans were forced into a form of servitude known as share-cropping. Under this system of peonage, the black farmers rented land from the white landowners; landowner and farmer were to "share the crops," but the end result was very different. Because of outrageous rents and the high cost of seed, black farmers remained in debt to their white landlords.

African Americans struggled to build a life for themselves amidst this hostility. Following in the tradition of Howard University, Booker T. Washington founded Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in 1881. Florida A&M University followed six years later. Other black colleges and universities answered the call from black people for educational opportunities that would lift them up out of their poverty.

Blacks protested the racism so prevalent in the South and across the country. T. Thomas Fortune established the New York Age to defend the civil rights of African Americans and denounce racial discrimination. Ida B. Wells wrote for the Memphis Free Speech to denounce the lynching of black people. And Mary Church Terrell became the first president of the National Association of Colored Women to work for educational and social reform for black people.

In the arts, blacks rose up to share their gifts. Cornetist Buddy Bolden developed a new style of music called "jazz" in the clubs of New Orleans. Poet Paul Laurence Dunbar spoke from the soul about his people's plight. And Scott Joplin composed "Maple Leaf Rag," one of the hall mark tunes of "ragtime."

Say Hello to Jim Crow
1878-1897

 
exhibit section

In this photo:
--Say Hello to Jim Crow section of the exhibit

 

 
This exhibit is divided into 10 sections

1. Introduction
--The James Hicks Collection

2. The Burden of Slavery, 1619-1861

 3. The Civil War, 1861-1865
4. The Price of Freedom: Reconstruction, 1865-1877

5. Say Hello To Jim Crow, 1878-1897 (you are here)

6. Up From Slavery: The Self Help Period 1898-1919
7. The Harlem Renaissance, 1920-1946
8. The Civil Rights Era, 1947-1968
9. The Black Power Movement, 1968-1980
10. The Turn of the Century, 1981-2004
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