The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow

Expand/Collapse The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow


The landmark four-part series The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow explores segregation from the end of the civil war to the dawn of the modern civil rights movement. It was a brutal and oppressive era in American history, but during this time, large numbers of African Americans and a corps of influential black leaders bravely fought against the status quo, amazingly acquiring for African Americans the opportunities of education, business, land ownership, and a true spirit of community.

  • Barbara Johns of Farmville, Virginia

    This video segment from The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow highlights the struggle to desegregate schools in the era of Jim Crow. In 1951, in the town of Farmville, Virginia, students at Robert Russa Moton High School called a strike, asserting their opposition to the deplorable conditions of their school compared to the white-only school. Led by the student activist Barbara Johns, students held a school strike, marched into the superintendent’s office, and demanded a better school. When the NAACP heard of the students’ cause, the organization provided support, and ultimately added the Farmville case to their challenge against Jim Crow.
    Grades: 9-12
  • The Birth of a Nation

    In this video from The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow, learn about the film The Birth of a Nation. This 1915 silent film was adapted from the novel The Clansman, which dramatized southern life in the period of Reconstruction. The story presents Ku Klux Klan members as noble men and vilifies southern black men as sexual predators of white women. While the NAACP tried desperately to have the film banned, it was to no avail. After the film’s release, rampant white violence against black men spread across the South.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Black Pioneers: Building African American Communities During the Jim Crow Era

    Students are introduced to all-black, self-sustaining communities established as a response to the imposition of Jim Crow laws and practices.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Blacks and Whites in the New South

    The years immediately following the Civil War were rife with change for both whites and blacks in the new South. While some blacks were unable to throw off the chains of servitude and continued to do hard, ill-paid, subservient work, others, despite many obstacles, managed to enter into professions that led to the creation of a new black middle-class. For the most part, whites responded with fear to the attitudes of pride and assertion they observed in blacks, who they had previously considered inferior, and sought to make a legal separation between the races.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois: The Conflict

    This video from The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow identifies two major leaders in the black community during the era of Jim Crow: Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois. By the turn of the 20th century, Washington was an incredibly popular figure who, among many accomplishments, had become the leader of the Tuskegee Institute and started the National Business League. Washington maintained that African Americans could achieve economic progress and spiritual growth but only by accepting the confines of Jim Crow. Du Bois, on the other hand, attacked Washington’s methodology publicly and emphasized the importance of intellectual rigor and equality for African Americans in all aspects of American life, with no exceptions. Nowhere were his verbal assaults on Washington as strong as in his 1903 book The Souls of Black Folk.

    Grades: 7-12
  • Booker T. Washington: An Education

    After Reconstruction ended in the South and the difficulties of transitioning from slavery to emancipation became painfully clear, many southern blacks turned to education, especially for their children, as a way to prevail in a system of white dominance and violence. This video from The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow focuses on Booker T. Washington, a powerful political leader and educator who led a campaign to educate blacks throughout the South. Washington was born into slavery but learned to read and write. Later, as a freedman, he attended Hampton Institute and became a teacher. By the early 1880s, he was invited to be the principal of a new school in Alabama, the Tuskegee Institute.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Charles Hamilton Houston and His Legal Challenge Against Jim Crow

    This video segment from The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow begins by discussing Walter White’s struggle for an anti-lynching bill in the 1930s. Ultimately, White’s hopes for legislation were shattered but Charles Hamilton Houston, chief legal council for the NAACP, believed the Constitution already mandated civil rights—all the NAACP needed was to take the fight to the courts. Houston designed a system of gathering court cases that would challenge Jim Crow era policies and set precedent. Houston’s efforts would eventually lead to the civil rights milestone Brown v. Board of Education.
    Grades: 9-12
  • Charles Hamilton Houston: Laying the Groundwork for Integration

    Charles Hamilton Houston, former dean of Howard University’s law school and chief legal counsel for the NAACP, believed discrimination in education was symbolic of many forms of discriminations facing African Americans in society. This video shows how Houston documented the separate and unequal conditions existing for white and black students in the South and prepared the way for the precedent-setting Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Domestic Terror: Understanding Lynching During the Jim Crow Era

    This lesson exposes the crime of lynching and explores the many political, legal and social attempts made by individuals and organizations to seek justice.

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Economics of Jim Crow

    In this lesson, students learn how the laws and practices of Jim Crow crippled many African Americans and lead to economic destabilization.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Edisto Island

    In the turbulent years following the Civil War, freedmen and women knew that in order to survive and become truly independent, they needed land. The Freedmen’s Bureau also regarded land ownership as key to a successful future and began to allocate abandoned and confiscated Confederate land to former slaves. In this video segment from The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow, freedmen gather in a church on Edisto Island, South Carolina, to hear news from Freedmen’s Bureau commissioner General O. O. Howard regarding their land and their futures.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Fighting Jim Crow in the Schools

    In this lesson students map the events in the fight for education for African Americans from the Jim Crow era to the Civil Rights movement.

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Geography of Jim Crow

    In this lesson, students locate statistical information using census data from the United States Historical Census Data Browser.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Ida B. Wells: A Lifetime of Activism

    As a young woman growing up during Reconstruction, Ida B. Wells experienced Jim Crow segregation when she was barred from travel on a train in the whites-only section. It was not until she observed the growing practice of violence toward African Americans that she began her crusade to stop lynching. This video shows Wells grow from school teacher to journalist to founding member of the NAACP.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Isaiah Montgomery Founds Mound Bayou

    This video from The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow looks at Isaiah T. Montgomery, the political leader and businessman who in 1887 founded the African American community of Mound Bayou, along the Mississippi Delta. Residents cleared the land and developed a thriving city along the frontier. By the late 1800s, Mound Bayou was a successful community and a safe haven for southern blacks. In 1890, Montgomery became a key figure in a brewing controversy when, in an effort to protect Mound Bayou from white intervention, he agreed to vote at the Mississippi Constitutional Convention for an amendment that would ensure the legal disenfranchisement of blacks in the state.

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Jim Crow Years: People Who Made a Difference

    In this lesson, students identify individuals who distinguished themselves and made contributions to their communities during the Jim Crow era.

    Grades: 9-12
  • The Law and Politics of Jim Crow

    This lesson examines the changing legal status of African Americans after slavery, the political violence that accompanied that change, and the legal challenges to Jim Crow.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Living with Jim Crow

    This lesson examines how the history of Jim Crow can be understood through the stories of individuals while still recounting a larger historical narrative.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Lucy Laney

    This video segment from The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow addresses the life and impact of Lucy Laney, the founder of the Haines Normal and Industrial School in Augusta, Georgia. Laney was an influential Jim Crow-era educator. She believed it was essential to cultivate the minds of her students in order to develop intellectual leaders for the future, especially black women who could then teach the next generation.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Ned Cobb: Fighting for the Farmer

    In 1931, the Communist Party traveled to the South to fight racial segregation and unfair practices associated with sharecropping. Ned Cobb, an African American farmer, not only welcomed their presence, he also became president of the Sharecroppers Union to fight for the rights of poor black and white farmers. This video shows how Cobb paid the price in his fight for equality.

    Grades: 9-12

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