African Americans In Mc Millen’s Dark Journey: Black Mississippians In The Age Of Jim Crow

1514 words - 7 pages

Plight of the African Americans After Reconstruction in Neil McMillen’s Book, Dark Journey: Black Mississippians in the Age of Jim Crow

Neil McMillen’s book, Dark Journey: Black Mississippians in the Age of Jim Crow categorically examines the plight of African Americans living in Mississippi during the era of Jim Crow. McMillen, a professor at the University of Southern Mississippi, describes the obstacles that African Americans dealt with in the fields of education, labor, mob violence, and politics. Supplementing each group with data tables, charts and excerpts from Southern newspapers of the day, McMillen saturates the reader with facts that help to understand the problems faced by ...view middle of the document...

As a result Mississippi was represented by Black congressmen and senators throughout the 1870’s. As the federal government’s commitment to the political equality of African Americans began to waver White Mississippians began to categorically exclude Blacks from the polls. With the revision of the Mississippi Constitution in 1890 poll taxes, understanding clauses, and intimidation replaced fraud and ballot stuffing as a solution to prevent Black suffrage. One by one Whites began to eliminate Blacks from positions of political power. With no political voice Blacks had no say how their taxes were spent, which lead too many Black institutions such as hospitals, orphanages, and schools being severely under-funded.

The education of Blacks in Mississippi was a very volatile issue for Whites. It was generally believed by Mississippi’s whites that the education of blacks was a waste of time and money because blacks would never be given jobs where they could use their minds. Those who supported education for blacks usually favored what they called “the right kind of education” which taught blacks how to become better laborers. Blacks who could read or showed any traces of an education were viewed with contempt by many White Mississippians who believed education made blacks resentful of the Jim Crow system under which they lived. As a result, black schools were extremely under funded by the state and federal government. Many of the funds that kept black schools up and running came from contributions from Northern charities or from the black community itself. Under this system Mississippi’s blacks were effectively taxed twice for their schools. First they had to pay the state tax which allocated little if any funds to black schools causing them to have to set up additional collections to keep the schools running. This was just what the White planters in Mississippi wanted because the blacks being uneducated assured them of large pool of cheap labor which would have no other choice but to work for whatever wages they set.

The only jobs available to Blacks in Mississippi were those designated “nigger work” by the white population. These were jobs that were either low paying, hard, dangerous, or all of the above. Most black Mississippians were share croppers or tenant farmers. These farmers were given menial supplies on credit and allowed to work a planters land in exchange for half of their produce or in the share croppers’ case whatever it took to cover their debt. In most cases if they were lucky they might break even at the end of a years work. Other blacks worked in saw and turpentine mills under slave like conditions. Many times these men lived in camps and were not allowed to leave unless given permission. Work was long and often times dangerous. With the institution of Black Codes African Americans who did not have work could be brought up on charges of vagrancy and sent to work in work camps where conditions were even worse than in the mills....

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