Review: Jim Crow in North Carolina: The Legislative Program from 1865–1920 by Richard A. Paschal
Jim Crow in North Carolina is an accessible legal academic book that tells the history of the laws that instituted de jure discrimination in the state of North Carolina. In this book, Richard Paschal a lawyer and political scientist by training, collected a list of discriminatory laws and laws promoting equality among the races from 1865–1920. (The list of laws is included in the back of the book in two tables.) Paschal’s primary focus is on those discriminatory laws. He finds, first, that the NC government began enacting these laws as soon as the Civil War was over which is earlier than what some historians have suggested, many believe these laws were enacted in the post-Reconstruction era. Second, there was not an influx of these laws immediately after the White Supremacy Campaigns of 1898 and 1900. At first this finding was surprising to me, but then Paschal shows that racial discrimination still increased at the turn of the 20th Century as a result of these campaigns. The campaigns caused White people in NC to become more racist and most importantly caused White government officials to enforce the existing laws in a more discriminatory fashion. Paschal states: “People such as White voting registrars and officials turned against Blacks with increased enmity because of the cultural impact of the White Supremacy dogma preached in the 1898 and 1900 campaigns”. In other words racial resentment campaigns work, even to this day; “Political campaigns repeatedly remind us that, historically, emotions and resentment often matter more than policies and decency.”
The strongest section of the book is when Paschal shows the racial disparities that occurred in the state after the White Supremacy campaigns. Paschal highlights how this occurred in three public policy areas: 1. the funding of segregated public schools; 2. voting and election administration; and 3. Black jury service. In each policy area Paschal shows, using quantitative data and primary sources, how racial disparities were in most cases nonexistent immediately before the White Supremacy campaigns, but grew after 1900. For example, he shows that there was an 8 cent gap between the amount funding the average White and Black student received in the 1890s. However, in the 1910s the funding gap between the races grew to $8, where White students benefited more than Black students. In the other policy areas, Blacks were disenfranchised from voting and barred from serving on juries in the 20th Century.
Paschal’s book is a fascinating look at the impact of racial resentment campaigns and discriminatory laws had on the state. One aspect that the author did not address was whether the discriminatory laws that he collected are still on the books, even if technically they have been overturned or superseded by federal or state law. I think future research could also look at the equality laws that he found, it would be interesting to know what the impetus was for each of those laws especially during this dark time in NC’s past. Students of history, law, and natives of NC will find this book very interesting. It is a good follow-up to an older book, The Negro and Fusion Politics in North Carolina, 1894–1901 by Helen Edmonds, that I read last year about the Fusion era in North Carolina and its backlash.