It’s unbelievable, when you think about it, how North Carolina maintained its segregated and discriminatory racial system for such a long time. The remnants of what is commonly called “Jim Crow” are still with us as a daily reminder of the horrors of the past.

A new book, “Jim Crow in North Carolina: The Legislative Program from 1865 to 1920,” by Richard A. Paschal helps us understand the impact of Jim Crow on North Carolina. It catalogues and summarizes race-based laws passed by the General Assembly from the end of the Civil War until 1920.

Paschal, a Raleigh lawyer who holds a graduate degree in history, argues that it was not so much the laws on the books that brought about and maintained the segregated and oppressive system sometimes branded as “Jim Crow.” More important, he says, were the longstanding community standards and customs and the allocation of community resources by the dominating white power structure.

Paschal challenges the views of respected historians such as C. Vann Woodward, whose classic book, “The Strange Career of Jim Crow,” argued that, even under slavery, the two races had not been as divided as they were under the Jim Crow laws of the late 1890s and afterwards. Further, Woodward said that during Reconstruction, there was significant racial mixing in economic and political matters. The segregating of the races, he wrote, was a relative newcomer to the region.

The core of Paschal’s book is his lists of laws passed by the N. C. General Assembly from 1865 through 1920. The lists include numerous laws passed before the 1890s that restricted blacks or discriminated against them.

While having separate schools for blacks and whites was not controversial in the time after the Civil War, unequal funding was a continuing blight. For instance, local communities had the power and responsibility for establishing and funding schools, supposedly on an equal basis. But one method approved by the legislature provided that the white schools would be funded by taxes on white people and Black schools would be funded by taxes on “colored persons.” In 1885 the N. C. Supreme Court recognized the discrimination and struck down the plan.

Paschal asserts that many of the Jim Crow restrictions and much of the subjugation of blacks were not solely “de jure,” that is, mandated by specific laws. Much of Jim Crow came about without specific legislation. Even the most blatant result of the 1898 and 1900 white supremacy campaigns, the disenfranchisement of blacks, was accomplished by implementation of a literacy requirement for voting. Paschal points out that a significant number of blacks were literate. The law permitted literate blacks to vote. But in its implementation, even the most literate blacks failed the tests imposed by community voting officials who were, of course, all white.

With respect to jury participation by blacks, Paschal found no racial restrictions in the law, but blacks rarely were allowed to serve. “The lack of African Americans in the jury box worked to the detriment of the Black community and Black criminal defendants for decades. The racial incitement of the white supremacy campaigns created a chasm between legal text and the application and operation of the law, as local officials tilted the playing field decisively against the state’s African American population.”

In his conclusion Paschal writes, “In order to fully understand the shadow that Jim Crow continues to cast over us today, it is necessary to know how ostensibly democratic government at all levels and in all places used law to advance white interests while disadvantaging the interests of African Americans and other minorities.”

He might have added that in too many places it is still happening.

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D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch.”

(4) comments


Perhaps someone can clarify the conservative perspective on racial justice for me? I am having difficulty understanding how D. G. Martin is guilty by association of racial discrimination because of his father, but President Trump is not? How Martin can be the poster boy for white privilege while conservative brand messaging from Tucker Carlson, Ben Shapiro, Candace Owens, etc. simultaneously asserts that white privilege does not exist? How the contemporary Democrat party is sneakily keeping Blacks “prisoners” when the last Democrat administration was led by a Black man (who constantly received racially charged attacks from the opposition party), and when the Clinton administration in the 90’s literally ran on an anti-welfare “queen” platform that (incorrectly in my view) attempted to solve systemic injustice by hyper-focusing on individual agency, which is now the de facto Republican policy? How the echoes of Jim Crow were supposedly solved by the Civil Rights Act, but POC’s are, by all available data, still disproportionately negatively affected by judicial bias, historical red-lining and its contemporary equivalents, selective law enforcement, tax money distribution and funding strategies for public education, lack of accumulated wealth because previous generations were literally chattel slaves, and scientifically proven implicit bias in hiring techniques? How will “personal responsibility” solve these problems for the majority of Black folks, and in what ways are they not taking responsibility for the things they can control? Can you point me towards all of the Republican lawmakers that are pushing for sweeping progressive reform of the institutions that continue to oppress vulnerable populations while actively funneling resources away from the communities that need them most?

D. G. Martin is the poster boy for white privilege in North Carolina, so he must be feeling guilty. His father was President of Davidson College back in the 50s and 60s; Davidson did not admit any minority students until it was forced to...

D. G. ran for office several times but thank God he lost to John Edwards; the rest is history; that didn't turn out too well for the Democrats...

This book review of his is really a bunch of malarky; at least that's what a Democrat would call it.

Jim Crow. Do we really need to keep it open? We have opened the door to blacks. The Democrats have kept them prisoners to get their vote. It is sad but at some point blacks will wake up to America and live freely and stop blaming everyone but themselves for what they do not take responsibility for. Happy new year


You are incomprehensible, disgustingly delusional, and racist to boot, in nearly every one of your posts on here. For the last time, please go away, you are not welcome in the High Country.

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