Monday, January 21, 2013

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Geography

"I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." -Martin Luther King Jr., 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  Today's post is dedicate to King and other civil rights leaders who tackled racial discrimination.

Before the American Civil War the South was notorious for its use of Blacks as slave labor.  However, Northern states had Blacks Laws which, depending on the state, barred Blacks from voting, serving on juries, or even being witnesses to trials involving a White person.  The Civil War and the 13th Amendment ended slavery and there was hope for change under Radical Republican leadership.  However, an alliance of Liberal Republicans and Democrats ended Reconstruction of the South after the election of 1876.  White rule was restored in the South and various "Jim Crow Laws" were passed designed to further disfranchise Blacks.  Some of these laws spread outside the South into former "Free" (non-slave) states as Black emigration out of the South grew in the early 1900s.  Other anti-Black codes were actually the old, never repealed Black Laws.

Inter-racial marriage bans were a big part of the Jim Crow/Black Laws.  The ban was designed to keep the White race "pure" and prevent Blacks from becoming upperly mobile by marrying Whites and having light brown children and grandchildren that could pass as White.  

From Map Scroll.  Inter-racial marriage was only allowed in 19 of the 50 states in territories in 1900.
Another important aspect of Jim Crow/Black Laws was restrictions on education.  Many states set up "separate but equal" schools for Blacks and Whites.  The schooling was hardly equal, however.  Besides setting Blacks behind on education, this helped Whites and Blacks view each other as distant "others" with little knowledge of each other's society or each other as individuals     

Map of school segregation.  From William Sugiharto.
PBS has a great collection of maps about Jim Crow on their website.  There are maps about the Jim Crow Laws, restriction on education, population and migration, and lynchings.  Note on the lynchings map that most of them are in the South and against Blacks.  However, outside the South the target of lynchings tend to be overwhelmingly White.  Besides frontier justice against criminals, these lynchings were primarily targeted against European and Mexican immigrants who did not fit the White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant model of America.

On this day we remember a leader for Civil Rights for Black Americans.  But let us recognize all leaders for civil rights for races and creeds.  May we not forget other discrimination campaigns like those against American Indians via the Indian codes, Americans of Japanese descent interment and exclusion zones established during World War II, and religious groups who talk and dress different and/or value life over wars or government policy.

May we live in a world where people's rights are recognized from creation until death.

"We, Negro Americans, sing with all loyal Americans: 'My country 'tis of thee,/Sweet land of liberty,/Of thee I sing./Land where my fathers died,/ Land of the Pilgrims' pride,/From every mountainside,/Let freedom ring!' That's exactly what we mean—from every mountain side, let freedom ring. Not only from the Green Mountains and White Mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire; not only from the Catskills of New York; but from the Ozarks in Arkansas, from the Stone Mountain in Georgia, from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia—let it ring not only for the minorities of the United States, but for the persecuted of Europe, for the rejected of Asia, disfranchised of South Africa and for the disinherited of all the earth—may the Republican Party, under God, from every mountainside, 'LET FREEDOM RING.'" -Archibald Carey Jr. "Let Freedom Ring" speech to the 1952 Republican National Convention

If a man boasts of loving God, while he hates his own brother, he is a liar. He has seen his brother, and has no love for him; what love can he have for the God he has never seen? No, this is the divine command that has been given us; the man who loves God must be one who loves his brother as well. -1 John 4:20-21, Knox Translation