At the turn of the last century and into the 1960’s, the South, controlled by Democrats with a historic anger against Republican reconstruction efforts after the Civil War, began enacting Jim Crow Laws to effectively disenfranchise black citizens and take away rights that were gained through the Civil War and enactment of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments.
By the 1960’s, the Supreme Court and Congress began a tag team effort to wipe out the remaining Jim Crow laws and usher in a new era of civil rights. Despite great efforts, many of the Jim Crow laws, though not enforced, remain on the books in many southern states.
In Georgia, by a unanimous vote of both houses of the General Assembly and yesterday’s signature by Governor Sonny Perdue, the Jim Crow era is officially over.
The governor signed four bills that repeal segregation-era laws. The laws have not been enforced in years, but they remained in the code. Perdue said that removing the laws is not only a symbolic gesture, but also a substantive one.
“Today I think is another important step in the ongoing process of putting real meat to the process of racial reconciliation in Georgia,” Perdue said in his office before signing the bills.
The laws were aimed at circumventing the desegregation of public schools following the 1954 Supreme Court decision of Brown vs. Board of Education:
– House Bill 25 repeals a law that granted the governor the authority to close any college if there is a threat of violence.
– House Bill 26 repeals a law that allowed the state’s chief executive to suspend compulsory K-12 attendance laws if there is a threat of violence.
– House Bill 27 repeals a law that gave the General Assembly the power to provide taxpayer-financed grants to students for K-12 education outside of public schools.
-House Bill 372 repeals a law that allowed local public school systems and governments to lease public facilities to private schools.
The efforts to repeal these laws were co-sponsored by Democrats and Republicans. In some ways it had a lot more meaning for the Republicans. Frequently painted by Democrats in Georgia as racists who will turn back the era on civil rights, these laws were repealed by the first majority Republican House, Senate, and Governor since reconstruction. Despite that, the new Senate Minority Leader, Robert Brown of Macon, was his typical less than gracious self.
“It is ironic and significant that the governor signed the infamous HB 244, the most discriminatory voting law in the 21st Century, before he repealed the unenforceable Jim Crow laws,” Brown said in statement issued Thursday.
Brown is of course referring to an elections reform bill that will require voters to show photographic identification at polls instead of bank statements, utility bills, and other government documents.