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The Strange Career of Jim Crow

4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  1,947 Ratings  ·  99 Reviews
C. Vann Woodward, who died in 1999 at the age of 91, was America's most eminent Southern historian, the winner of a Pulitzer Prize for Mary Chestnut's Civil War and a Bancroft Prize for The Origins of the New South. Now, to honor his long and truly distinguished career, Oxford is pleased to publish this special commemorative edition of Woodward's most influential work, The ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published November 29th 2001 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published February 1955)
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Thing Two

Did you know there was a period after the Civil War ended where blacks and whites lived together peacefully in the South? Yeah, I didn't, either. It wasn't until the early part of 20th century that the white population -- following the lead of their Northern countrymen -- began enacting laws to restrict the movement of the African American population.

This book was eye opening. It's short -- barely over two hundred pages -- and easy to read. It's well worth your time to peruse. It debu
Jan 04, 2012 Marley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ack I wrote a long review of this and it promptly disappeared. OK, I'll make this one short.

The Strange Career of Jim Crow is a classic and a great introduction to Jim Crow. I imagine some readers will be surprised to learn the Jim Crow was born in the North and only moved to the South years later

Woodward begins his study with pre-war race relations then moves to Reconstruction, Redemption, and the repudiation of racial accommodation in the late 1800s which allowed Jim Crow and racial disenfran
Aug 04, 2014 Andrea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, race
Brilliant for its time, and even for this time as I'd always believed Jim Crow started right after the pact that ended reconstruction when in fact it only really came into its own turn of the century...turn of this god damned century! It's crazy I didn't know that, or how it came into being, and this book was pivotal in reclaiming that recent history against those who see segregation as just the natural way of things.

Of course, being written in the heat of the civil rights movement it's one of t
Mar 28, 2012 Liam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"[T]hings have not always been the same in the South. In a time when the Negroes formed a much larger proportion of the population than they did later, when slavery was a live memory in the minds of both races, and when the memory of the hardships and bitterness of Reconstruction was still fresh, the race policies accepted and pursued in the South were sometimes milder than they became later." (47)

"No real relief was in sight from the long cyclical depression of the 'nineties, an acute period of
Martin King
C Vann Woodward’s The Strange Career of Jim Crow was first published in 1955. The book was based on three James W. Richard lectures given by Woodward at the University of Virginia in 1954. He argued in those lectures that there was considerable economic and political interaction in the South between the races during reconstruction. In the 1957 paperback edition Woodward attempted to counter criticism that he had ignored the strength of racism that existed in the South prior to the codification o ...more
Charlie Close
Jan 06, 2016 Charlie Close rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know why I'd never heard of this book until now. A fascinating and beautifully-written history of Jim Crow segregation in the South from the end of the Civil War to the early 1970s.

The most interesting part was what happened during the fifty years after the Civil War, when segregation as we know it did not yet exist and did not have to be invented. And yet it was. Why? Woodward offers an answer.
Steven Rapelje
Engaging for the first five chapters and then takes a serious misstep in Chapter 6 (which was not a part of the original publishing in 1955). Chapter six, written in the early 1970s struggles to grasp the depths of the Black Power movement and even goes as far as to call Stokely Carmicael a racist.

The book does an effective job of articulating how Jim Crow was not a strictly Southern problem. He alleges that Jim Crow policies were birthed in the North; "Segregation in complete and fully develope
Oct 28, 2007 Bill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another one of those mind-bending history books that makes you re-think American history.
Sean Rosenthal
Interesting Quotes:

"Among whites, especially in the cities west of the seaboard states, there was a great preponderance of men over women, always a phenomenon of rapid urban growth. Among blacks, on the other hand, there was a great preponderance of women over men, occasioned by the practice of selling off young males to the country. Among both races the shortage was always greatest among young adults. This situation helps to account for a considerable amount of cohabitation between white men an
Feb 09, 2017 Msimone rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
C.Vann Woodward first published this book on the history of segregation in 1955; and revised it in 1957 and 1974. This was his most influential book, praised by Martin Luther King, Jr. as "the historical bible of the Civil Rights Movement." I recommend reading this book together with THE NEW JIM CROW to understand how the laissez faire doctrine for segregation has persisted in AmericAn politics where it has been accepted that " you can not change the hearts of men with laws or decisions. The Com ...more
Brian Anton
Oct 31, 2012 Brian Anton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
C. Vann Woodward’s The Strange Career of Jim Crow deals with the history of Jim Crow laws in the South after the Civil War beginning with Reconstruction and ending with the Civil Rights Movement. The thesis for the book in the author’s own words is that:
The South’s adoption of extreme racism is due not so much to a conversion as it was to a relaxation of the opposition. All the elements of fear, jealousy, proscription, hatred, and fanaticism had long been present, as they are present in various
Feb 14, 2017 Tobias rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Classic history of how Reconstruction gave way to Jim Crow, and then how Jim Crow gave way to the "second Reconstruction." Does exactly what history is supposed to do: adds complexity to a standard narrative, deconstructs myths, and even points the way to something better.
Almost gave up on this one - glad I didn't. Definitely a re-read. Very informative. Even mentioned my little hometown of Portsmouth, VA.
very different from what i usually read, but it as part of one of my uni assignments and i enjoyed reading/working with it more than i originally thought
Jan 27, 2017 JJ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Essential reading for anyone who wants to opine about American race relations. Is there a sixth star for me to click?
Jan 12, 2016 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-general
In this must-read book, The Strange Career of Jim Crow, C. Vann Woodward describes the evolution, life, and death of the legal and social framework intended to reinforce and maintain segregation in the south from the Civil War to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 marking the end of the Jim Crow era. In this period, Woodward argues, there were two distinct reconstructions. One at the end of the Civil War that gave rise to Jim Crow and the other followin ...more
Jul 30, 2016 Spencer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, history
Though written in 1955 this is still a good concise history of Reconstruction and racism in the American south. Woodward starts with a view of Reconstruction that runs counter to the narrative we have heard for a hundred years.

He describes an era where newly freed slaves are transitioning into a political environment that welcomes them as they participate in the voting process. They register to vote, win elections, and take office locally and at the national level. They are becoming a part of t

Dec 13, 2014 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fifty years ago, racial and civil unrest swept the United States as organized resistance to the morally outrageous and legally dodgy practice of segregation strengthened throughout the country. Ten years before the Civil Rights movement hit its apogee, C. Van Woodward penned a history of segregation as public policy that offered grounds for hope. Far from being a natural and deeply rooted product of the South, Jim Crow laws were a relatively new creation. Dating in the South only to the late 19 ...more
Tom Darrow
Jun 22, 2013 Tom Darrow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
C. Vann Woodward is regarded as being one of the leading historians of the 20th century, and this book demonstrates why. Originally published in 1955, about a year after the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, seeks to dispel some of the misconceptions that people had about the nature of segregation. He outlines his purpose in a very powerful quite in the preface where he says, "the twilight zone that lies between living memory and written mythology is one of the favorite breeding places of m ...more
Feb 04, 2014 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
History is always way more complicated than I think it was.

There were a lot of things happening 150 years ago that impacted reconstruction after the Civil War.

While northerners were attempting to impress racial equality in the South, the North - while free - had seen a long history of segregation. French historian Alexis de Tocqueville wrote (pre-Civil War), "The prejudice of race appears to be stronger in the states that have abolished slavery than in those where it still exists; and nowhere
This book is a must-read for anyone wanting a better understanding of African-American history or the white South. Woodward, a native of Arkansas and a professor at Yale, was one of the last century's most perceptive and original historians of the South. I read his book The Burden of Southern History when I was in high school, and it was the first book I had ever encounter that gave me a framework I could accept for understanding where I grew up. This book (first published in 1955) describes how ...more
Apr 04, 2016 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jane W. gave me a copy of Michele Alexander's book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010-2011) with strong recommendation to read without delay. Well, I wasn't so sure I could do a decent job of explaining what the "old" Jim Crow was all about; and since I had Woodward's book on my shelf, I figured I should read it first. It turned out that the copy I have is the 1957 Galaxy Book edition, which brings me right up to my early high school years in a small Texas G ...more
Robert Owen
C. Vann Woodward’s “The Strange Career of Jim Crow” belongs near the top of the list of “the five books every white person should read about race”. Actually, it belongs near the top of the list of “the five books every American should read to understand nation’s history.”

Originally derived from a three lectures series delivered by Woodward in the mid-1950’s and, over the next decade and a half and expanded upon by the author to include chapters about Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s and the
Jul 20, 2015 Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An eye-opening, revolutionary book, and the story of Jim Crow is fascinating. The realities of racial mixture of the South is so often presented as a monolithic and entirely backwards physical and cultural region of our country; yet the ebb and flow of segregationist practices in light of federal and state policies is much more nuanced than the traditional narrative. For example, looking at the interplay of political and economic policies that at turns alienated and drew in support for Jim Crow, ...more
Joseph Stieb
I found this to be a thought-provoking little book about the Jim Crow Era and what Woodward calls the Second Reconstruction. Writing from the mid-1950's, Woodward is working within the post-Brown v Board but pre-Civil Rights Act period of major Southern resistance to the court-mandate overturning of Jim Crow. He starts by discussing the establishment of Jim Crow in the 1890's, showing how there were at least 3 other alternative frameworks of race relations that could have become dominant. The fi ...more
Apr 17, 2013 Vicki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Pg 125 "Religious sentiment is not to be neglected in the briefest sketch of the agitation for Negro rights. The 'social gospel' movement began to permeate the great Southern Protestant sects in the early years of the century. As the breach between the estranged Northern and Southern branches of Methodism and the other churches healed more firmly in the 'thirties, the extension of the social gospel to include the Negro and his wrongs made itself felt more strongly in the in the Southern connecti ...more
Nov 24, 2014 J.P. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read all but the last chapter of the book as I lost it unfortunately.

It's been 2 months since I read it but it was a very informative book. It shed light on the origins of Jim Crow, which oddly enough, come from the North. Despite the conflict of the Civil War & resentment of losing it, there was relative peace in the aftermath. There was still violence but less of it in comparison to coming years. The violence being minimized it seems had a lot to do with familiarity as master & slave
Nov 15, 2015 Iain rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Martin Luther King Jr. in Montgomery, Alabama in 1965 called C. Vann Woodward's book 'The Strange Career of Jim Crow,' the "historical bible of the Civil Rights Movement." Published after a series of university lectures given by Woodward at the University of Virginia in 1955 and subsequently updated. The book dismisses the common notion that Jim Crow laws were in effect almost immediately after the Civil War, which was not the case. In the aftermath of Reconstruction there was a period of relati ...more
Oct 22, 2016 Ahonsi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book fell apart in the last 2-3 chapters because its analysis of the social turmoil during and after the Civil Rights movement is erroneous.

Moreover, the book has a tinge of revisionist apology to it.

Sure, Blacks were able to make civil and political inroads from Emancipation to Redemption (much imposed by legislation and backed up by military force), but I don't buy that they also made social inroads to the point of their harmoniously living side-by-side to those who viewed them as inferior
Apr 19, 2012 William rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Started this book on vacation; it's easy to see why it is considered a classic. Woodward ably demonstrates that far from being intrinsic to the South, Jim Crow was something imposed. It was a political act. For the South and the Civil Rights movement, this understanding was a crucial one in helping the parties walk away from the formal practice. It should be underscored, that this book also was the means by which North and South reappraised their understanding of Jim Crow, and in doing so, chang ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made
  • The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South
  • A Short History of Reconstruction
  • Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory
  • Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow
  • White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812
  • Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power
  • The Age of Reform
  • American Slavery: 1619-1877
  • An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy Vol. 1
  • The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861
  • American Slavery, American Freedom
  • A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration
  • Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945
  • Samuel Johnson
  • The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South
  • Defying Dixie: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights: 1919-1950
  • Away Down South: A History of Southern Identity

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“The other was that all the major civil rights organizations, new as well as old, were committed to the philosophy of non-violence, the doctrine preached by the most conspicuous leader in the Negro movement, Martin Luther King. ‘We will soon wear you down by our capacity to suffer,’ he told the whites, ‘and in winning our freedom we will so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process.” 0 likes
“The fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city, North and South,’ he said. ‘Where legal remedies are not at hand, redress is sought in the streets in demonstrations, parades and protests, which create tensions and threaten violence—and threaten lives.” 0 likes
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