Segregration and Violence
Thursday, December 29, 1898
Evening Session, 7.30 o'clock
Protection of American Citizens
Federal efforts to ensure the rights of African-Americans in the South came to an end in 1877. Over the following four decades, without significant objection from the courts or the federal government, white supremacists enacted "Black Laws" which imposed strict segregation. Schools, churches, restaurants, hotels, public transportation, rest rooms, and water fountains were labeled "white only" or "colored." In hospitals, blacks could not nurse whites, nor could whites nurse blacks. Legal obstacles were erected and terrorism used to keep African-Americans from voting: in Louisiana in 1896 there were 130,334 blacks registered to vote; by 1905 only 1,342 were registered.
Mob-violence and Anarchy, North and South
In the South, lynching was one of the terrorist tactics used to control and threaten the African-American. Between 1889 and 1918, a total of 2,522 black Americans were lynched, 50 of them women. These people were hanged, burned alive, or hacked to death. According to the mythology popular at the time, black men were lynched because they had raped white women, yet historians find that in eighty percent of the cases there were no sexual charges alleged, let alone proved. People were lynched for petty offenses such as stealing a cow, arguing with a white man, or attempting to register to vote. Social critic H.L. Mencken described the practice as one which "in sheer high spirits, some convenient African is taken at random and lynched, as the newspapers say, 'on general principles.'" No one was punished in the South for taking part in a lynching until 1918.