Jim Crow in Hannibal
This racist drawing from the 1890s, with the caption "Last one in's a nigger," was donated to the museum by a donor who prefers to remain anonymous.
The Jim Crow era in the United States extended from the mid-1870s to the mid-1960s. At its core, Jim Crow was a dismissal of African American rights with legislated segregation, but it was also a very real threat to the lives of African Americans and the security of their property. According to a Tuskegee Institute Study, 3,386 African Americans were lynched from 1882 through 1930. Two such victims were killed and are buried here in Northeast Missouri (see link below).
The era also produced many racist artifacts which were widely distributed during that period. The museum's holdings display various Jim Crow memorabilia, including a “Colored Entrance” sign and “Aunt Jemima” salt and pepper shakers. These artifacts are the types of objects that most observers associate with Jim Crow laws and etiquette.
Above: Lynchings became spectator events in America's Jim Crow era.
Above: A white merchant's ad from the Hannibal 1927 Colored Directory
Jim Crow memorabilia, including advertisements, cartoons, and artifacts, represented the systemic degradation of African Americans. These images served to justify prejudice and discrimination. If Black adults looked foolish and outrageous enough, then whites could easily believe that they should not be allowed to vote, serve on juries, hold certain jobs, be educated, or live in white neighborhoods. These anti-Black items both shaped and reflected this destructive attitude toward Blacks.
Unlike the deep South during this period, Hannibal did not have “Jim Crow Laws,” but local prejudice and customs achieved the same results. African Americans were excluded from opportunities, jobs, housing, education, and other benefits held exclusively by whites. Local African Americans experienced discrimination in all public places, restaurants, hotels and movie theatres. A quote in the Jim’s Journey exhibit reminds visitors that “Even when you went to work you went in the back door” if you were a black Hannibalian.
1968 presidential rally held in Hannibal's Central Park for candidate George Wallace, dedicated racist with the famous slogan “And I say, Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!” Prominent African American figure in the photo is Steven Letcher. Photo taken from the Steve Chou collection.