Arc of Justice

Arc of Justice

by

Kevin Boyle

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Jim Crow is the name given to a group of state and local laws put in place in the American South between the 1890s and the 1960s that enforced racial segregation in public facilities (including schools) and prevented interracial marriages. Jim Crow laws were, in many ways, part of a Southern backlash against federal Reconstruction programs in the years following the American Civil War. However, they weren’t just a Southern phenomenon, and the Supreme Court upheld them in several key rulings. Many of the people who traveled north during the Great Migration, including Ossian Sweet, did so in part to escape Jim Crow segregation.

Jim Crow Quotes in Arc of Justice

The Arc of Justice quotes below are all either spoken by Jim Crow or refer to Jim Crow. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
).
Chapter 1 Quotes

It took him twelve more years to fulfill his parents’ instructions, a dozen long, hard years of schooling to master the material that would make him an educated man and earn the pride that was expected of the race’s best men, all the while working as a serving boy for white people […] Ossian never excelled, but he got an education, as fine an education as almost any man in America, colored or white, could claim. By age twenty-five, he had earned his bachelor of science degree […] and his medical degree from Washington, D.C.’s Howard University, the jewel in the crown of Negro colleges.

Related Characters: Ossian Sweet, W. E. B. Du Bois
Page Number: 20-21
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

He’d recount it with frightening specificity: the smell of kerosene, Rochelle’s screams as he was engulfed in flames, the crowd’s picking off pieces of charred flesh to take home as souvenirs. Maybe, just maybe, he did see it all. The bridge was a short walk from his home. He could have been outside—coming back from his father’s fields—when the mob drove Rochelle through East Bartow. But he was only five years old in the summer of 1901. And it seems unlikely that Dora would have let him outside anytime that day. More likely, the horrific events imprinted themselves so deeply on Ossian’s mind that he convinced himself that he had been there. Either way, the effect was the same. The image of the conflagration—the heart-pounding fear of it—had been seared into his memory.

Related Characters: Ossian Sweet, Fred Rochelle, Dora DeVaughn
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

Neighborhoods and businesses weren’t the only places where Negroes were increasingly unwelcome: at Scarborough’s beloved Oberlin, there was talk of black and white students taking their Bible studies in separate classes. None of this segregation had the sanction of law—state civil rights statutes remained on the books—and it wasn’t consistently applied: it was a patchwork of practices differing from place to place and even street to street. But for colored people, the trend was frighteningly familiar.

Page Number: 78-9
Explanation and Analysis:

A life in medicine would give Ossian the status he dreamed of—and the money he craved: a doctor could easily take home fifteen hundred dollars a year, an almost unimaginable amount to a young man whose father probably earned a fifth of that figure. If Ossian should rise in the profession, as he intended to do, his income could go even higher […] But it wasn’t the money alone that mattered. A high income would give him the outward signs of success: the dapper clothes he had never had a chance to wear, the fashionable home so different from the farmhouse his father had built. But to be called doctor—Doctor Ossian H. Sweet—that would be the greatest mark of respect he could imagine.

Related Characters: Ossian Sweet
Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 85-86
Explanation and Analysis:

Violence finally ended on the fourth day […President] Wilson ordered two thousand federal troops into the capital to secure the streets. And a furious rainstorm drove both whites and blacks indoors. Negro spokesmen insisted, however, that neither federal action nor a fortuitous turn in the weather had quelled the attack. James Weldon Johnson […] arrived in the city just as the soldiers were taking up positions. “The Negroes themselves saved Washington by their determination not to run, but to fight,” he concluded after two days of consultation and investigation, “fight in defense of their lives and their homes. If the white mob had gone on unchecked—and it was only the determined effort of black men that checked it—Washington should have been another and worse East St. Louis.”

Related Characters: James Weldon Johnson (speaker), Ossian Sweet
Related Symbols: Houses
Page Number: 96-97
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

The Klan was in the ascendancy; the Negroes’ white allies on the bench had deserted them; the mayor they had helped to elect had endorsed injustice and declared the pursuit of civil rights a threat to peace and liberal democracy. No longer was this simply a question of whether the Sweets were justified in firing into the mob on Garland Avenue. Now the Talented Tenth was locked in combat against segregation itself, battling to preserve some shred of the promise that brought almost a million people out of the South in the previous ten years, to show that the North was different, to prove that there were places in America where Jim Crow would not be allowed to rule. This had become a fight over fundamentals.

Related Characters: Ossian Sweet, Gladys Sweet, John Smith
Page Number: 196
Explanation and Analysis:
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Arc of Justice PDF

Jim Crow Term Timeline in Arc of Justice

The timeline below shows where the term Jim Crow appears in Arc of Justice. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue: America: 1925
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
...American cities in the mid-1920s, even though they lack the formal segregationist policies of the Jim Crow -era South. Beginning in the late 19th century, nativist politicians opposed the so-called “ethnic” influence... (full context)
Chapter 2: Ain’t No Slavery No More
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...tried to eke out a living doing manual labor. White people in the cities enforced Jim Crow segregation just as enthusiastically, if not more, than their rural counterparts. But quiet, dignified, determined... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
The violence of the Jim Crow South provided the constant backdrop of Ossian’s childhood years. Social and economic change had stripped... (full context)
Chapter 3: Migration
The Great War changes America. Patriotic fervor revitalizes racism and nativist sentiments. Jim Crow segregation seeps into Washington D.C. under President Wilson. For example,  the War Department organizes Black... (full context)
Chapter 4: Uplift Me, Pride
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
...trip provides a distraction from the couples’ personal grief in addition to a break from Jim Crow -style racism. Their ship cabin for the European voyage sits between two white couples’ cabins. (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
But Jim Crow follows the Sweets abroad, too. Although Ossian makes a sizeable donation to the American Hospital... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Letter of Your Law
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
...become something bigger than a case of self-defense. It has become a referendum on whether Jim Crow will be allowed to rule in the North as well as the South. (full context)
Chapter 7: Freedmen, Sons of God, Americans
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Self-Defense, Race, and Ownership Theme Icon
The American Dream Theme Icon
...unjustly separated from their daughter and thrown in jail. And they raise the specter of Jim Crow segregation encroaching on Northern Black communities. But donations fail to meet expectations. More distressingly, the... (full context)
Epilogue: Requiescam
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...in American society in the 1930s, 40s, 50s do show progress. Klan power evaporates and Jim Crow segregation drains away in the North, where white people convince themselves again that they are... (full context)
Prejudice, Segregation, and Society Theme Icon
Justice and Civil Rights Theme Icon
Progress and Social Change Theme Icon
...the NAACP “doggedly pursue[s]” Johnson’s legal strategy, using Supreme Court challenges to chip away at Jim Crow laws, including a landmark civil rights victory in the case of Brown v. Board of... (full context)