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The Strange Career of Jim Crow [Paperback]

by C. Vann Woodward, William S. McFeely
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 2001 0195146905 978-0195146905 Commemorative
C. Vann Woodward, who died in 1999 at the age of 91, was America's most eminent Southern historian, the winner of a Pulitzer Prize for Mary Chestnut's Civil War and a Bancroft Prize for The Origins of the New South. Now, to honor his long and truly distinguished career, Oxford is pleased to publish this special commemorative edition of Woodward's most influential work, The Strange Career of Jim Crow.

The Strange Career of Jim Crow is one of the great works of Southern history. Indeed, the book actually helped shape that history. Published in 1955, a year after the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education ordered schools desegregated, Strange Career was cited so often to counter arguments for segregation that Martin Luther King, Jr. called it "the historical Bible of the civil rights movement." The book offers a clear and illuminating analysis of the history of Jim Crow laws, presenting evidence that segregation in the South dated only to the 1890s. Woodward convincingly shows that, even under slavery, the two races had not been divided as they were under the Jim Crow laws of the 1890s. In fact, during Reconstruction, there was considerable economic and political mixing of the races. The segregating of the races was a relative newcomer to the region.

Hailed as one of the top 100 nonfiction works of the twentieth century, The Strange Career of Jim Crow has sold almost a million copies and remains, in the words of David Herbert Donald, "a landmark in the history of American race relations."

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Editorial Reviews


"C. Vann Woodward's Strange Careeer is one of the most important works to an American historian of any period. Not only is Strange Career a great work of history, it is history. It is still enthralling students today."--Carlos Blanton, Rice University

"This classic study of the history of segregation in the United States still has much to teach us."--The Diversity Factor

"A unique, revealing, and 'eye-opening' volume that deals with a most sensitive aspect of U.S. history."--Arthur E. Chapman, University of Miami

Praise for previous editions:

"Excellent perspective of development of Jim Crow laws in South and , what is unusual, in the North. The revision has a good analysis of the irony of modern black separatism."--Ben F. Fordney, James Madison Univ.

"A witty, learned, and unsettling book...a book of permanent significance."--Robert Penn Warren

"A landmark in the history of American race relations."--David Herbert Donald

"I have used this work as a required reading in my freshman-level U.S. history class for twenty-two years and found it a most appropriate assignment."--Peter Sehlinger, Indiana University, Indianapolis

"Absolutely useful."--Jennie La Monte, University of New Hampshirs

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

The late C. Vann Woodward was the Sterling Professor of History at Yale until his death in 1999. Among his books are Mary Chestnut's Civil War, The Origins of the New South, Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel, and The Burden of Southern History. He was also General Editor of The Oxford History of the United States series.

William S. McFeely won the Lincoln Prize in 1992 for Frederick Douglass and the Pulitzer Prize in 1982 for Grant: A Biography. He is Abraham Baldwin Professor of the Humanities Emeritus at the University of Georgia and lives in Wellfleet, Massachusetts.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; Commemorative edition (November 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195146905
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195146905
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
70 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Segregation: What It Was and What It Wasn't December 19, 2001
C. Vann Woodward's The Strange Career of Jim Crow is not only a fine introduction to its topic -- the segregationist period in the South -- but one of the most significant and influential books of its time.
Originally published in 1955 (by Oxford University Press), Professor Woodward's tome kicked off the Civil Rights era with a bang, debunking the ludicrous myth (and mantra among segregationists) that separation of the races had always existed in Southern life, and generally dissecting an ugly monstrosity which had come to be accepted simply as "the way things are." Ten years later, in a second revision which came just as the legal battle against segregation was almost won, Woodward added a wealth of information which helped finish the job of winning the people's hearts and minds: in the words of Robert Penn Warren, Woodward's work was "a witty, learned, and unsettling book. The depth of the unsettling becomes more obvious day by day; which is a way of saying that it is a book of permanent significance." And ten years later still, in this -- the third and final revision -- Woodward capped off the era with an examination of the more violent, less integrationist movements which arose after Watts, with leaders like Huey Newton, Eldridge Cleaver and Bobby Seale.
Woodward is an equal-opportunity myth-exploder. On the one hand, he demonstrates at great length that segregation was not a mere expression of racism, but in fact a complex and corrupt outworking of many political and economic interests in the impoverished, post-Reconstruction South.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Race in America February 6, 2002
The most fascinating thing about this book is not just the particular events in history, or the misconceptions and myths that Woodward discusses, but rather how truly complex the issue of race is in America. Since emancipation, there has always been a struggle between and among whites and blacks to figure out how to understand each other and themselves, and how to occupy the same place. This history is indeed strange, and to have an idea of why race is still such an issue today, it helps to know how racism, segregation, and civil rights changed over time.
Woodward's book cautions us against taking simplified views that the South was always racist, and the North was not, and he begins by describing various accounts of life in the South right after the Civil War. According to Woodward, the venomous prejudice that sustained the Jim Crow laws decades later wasn't foreseeable at that time. Much of his explanation of the racist sentiment that so desired segregation is framed in the context of politics, and he tries to analyze many of the events he discusses in terms of political and economic pressures, as well as in terms of reactions to preceding actions.
If the Civil War is to be seen as a war for racial equality (and there are many other ways of seeing it), then it can easily be argued that it continues to this day. It is often most comforting to think of the wiping out of Native Americans, and then the enslavement of Africans as hideous scars that America carries in the past, while believing that America today is a different, tolerant place. But Jim Crow laws were a product of the twentieth century, and the racial tensions still exist in a very real way. Woodward's book, first published in 1955, and last revised in 1974, is still immensely relevant today, and reading it can only enhance your sense of American history.
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50 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars horrifying October 21, 2000
In C. Vann Woodward's enormously influential examination of Jim Crow segregation laws in the post-Civil War South he makes two fundamental points: first, that the imposition of strict segregation did not immediately follow the War; second, that the eventual adoption of Jim Crow laws was not simply a function of racism--there were myriad political factors involved.
Woodward first provides a detailed analysis of the state of the races following the War. He demonstrates: that Slavery had required the proximity and interaction of Blacks and Whites, which could not be reversed overnight; that Northern Republicans, Southern Conservatives and Southern Radicals all had reasons to court black citizens; and reminds us that with the North virtually running the South for a period of years, segregation would not have been allowed immediately after the war.
He then makes a compelling case that the true rise of Jim Crow came about, in the 1890's, due to a confluence of factors: 1) Northern withdrawal from Southern affairs; 2) the changes in Northern attitudes towards colored peoples as America became an Imperialist power; 3) the crushing depression of the 80's, which added fuel to racial animus; 4) the concurrent rise of the Populists who were more than willing to play the race card; and 5) the series of Supreme Court rulings which sanctioned separation.
Finally, he turns to the demise of segregation, which was going on even as he wrote the several editions of his book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent well-written book
This book is well-written by a respected author. To learn about Reconstruction after the Civil War this is the book to read.
Published 2 months ago by KNP
4.0 out of 5 stars Against Inevitability
Southern racists liked to claim that Jim Crow was an ancient institution with deep roots in Southern culture. "The Strange Career of Jim Crow" blew up that claim. Read more
Published 10 months ago by not me
3.0 out of 5 stars A history of the betrayal of emancipation's hopes.
This is an out-dated history of the post Civil War efforts to stifle black Americans' entry into full citizenship. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Jim Crow
Good book, not a boring read. The book has pretty interesting facts that open your eyes and really flip the
Published 15 months ago by Matthew
4.0 out of 5 stars Jim Crow: A New Reality
C. Vann Woodward challenges long-held beliefs about 'Jim Crow' which will astonish Americans today. Northerners will be surprised by having to own up to prejudices quieter but more... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Descedent of Confederate Soldiers
4.0 out of 5 stars History As It Is Taking Place
This was very interesting book in that it gives a perspective on the Civil Rights struggle as it was taking place. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Lionel S. Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic, still powerful today
This book, now a classic, is a must for all who seek to know more about institutional racism and its modern underpinnings and for all who think that racism is a thing of the past... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Catharine L. Tyler
5.0 out of 5 stars Location, location, location
The reason I titled my review, location, location, location is because C. Vann Woodward in his book, The Strange Career of Jim Crow let it be known that racial segregation is not a... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Tellmeasecret
5.0 out of 5 stars A Lasting Work
Let me be clear upfront that the first part of this book holds together far better than the later parts. Read more
Published on February 14, 2012 by J. Smallridge
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Quality
Despite being a used book, this was of great quality. I recommend purchasing the used edition of this book because it is nearly unused.
Published on November 3, 2011 by History Student
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