Typically the Jim Crow Era of segregation is understood as beginning directly after Reconstruction and going into the mid-twentieth century with the dual climaxes of the Brown vs. Board
Supreme Court decision and the Montgomery Bus Boycott Movement in Montgomery, Alabama. What this narrative suggests is that Jim Crow was a southern phenomenon. Such a view is unfortunately ill conceived. Colored Travelers: Mobility and the Fight for Citizenship before the Civil War
(University of North Carolina Press, 2016), written by Dr. Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor,
Associate Professor of History at Smith College, reshapes contemporary memory of when and why Jim Crow laws were enacted. In Colored Travelers
, Dr. Pryor details how while antebellum-era Northern black abolitionists simultaneously fought to abolish slavery, they also pushed the limits of what citizenship meant by attempting to freely travel within it. They did this by challenging Northern Jim Crow laws set to undermine the mobility of black people in general, but this oppression hit black abolitionists most because of the mobility needed to reach their events. By using travel narratives, newspaper articles, and various primary sources of domestic and international black travel, Dr. Pryor explains why the pre-Civil War period was an essential training ground for the laws that would nationally become entrenched in the post-emancipation United States of America.
Adam McNeil is a graduating M.A in History student at Simmons College in Boston, MA. He graduated from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Fall 2015 with B.S. in History. Adam can be reached at @CulturedModesty.