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Who Was Jim Crow? Was He a Real Person?

Man drinking water during Jim Crow era

The name Jim Crow is used to refer to a set of local and state laws that once advocated racial segregation in all public facilities under the mandate of "separate but equal." The laws applied, not only to African-Americans, but also to other non-white ethnic groups in mostly Southern states in the United States.
Was Jim Crow a real person?

No. Jim Crow was actually a fictional character, a caricature of a clumsy, dimwitted Black slave. This derogatory character was created by a white actor named Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice. The character was reportedly inspired by an elderly Black man he once saw singing a tune called “Jump Jim Crow” in Louisville, Kentucky.

During his performances, Rice would wear blackface and perform race jokes and songs in a stereotypical slave dialect. Due to Rice's fame, by 1838 the term "Jim Crow" had become a pejorative way of referring to African Americans and the segregation laws they had to follow. Eventually, the laws and the very era they lived in was referred to "Jim Crow".

Sadly, Jim Crow’s legacy would continue to endure in some Southern states all the way up until the 1970's.