OVERRIDE

American Nightmare

The History of Jim Crow

Jerrold M. Packard

St. Martin's Press

For a hundred years after the end of the Civil War, a quarter of all Americans lived under a system of legalized segregation called Jim Crow. Together with its rigidly enforced canon of racial "etiquette," these rules governed nearly every aspect of life--and outlined draconian punishments for infractions.

The purpose of Jim Crow was to keep African Americans subjugated at a level as close as possible to their former slave status. Exceeding even South Africa's notorious apartheid in the humiliation, degradation, and suffering it brought, Jim Crow left scars on the American psyche that are still felt today. American Nightmare examines and explains Jim Crow from its beginnings to its end: how it came into being, how it was lived, how it was justified, and how, at long last, it was overcome only a few short decades ago. Most importantly, this book reveals how a nation founded on principles of equality and freedom came to enact as law a pervasive system of inequality and virtual slavery.

Although America has finally consigned Jim Crow to the historical graveyard, Jerrold Packard shows why it is important that this scourge--and an understanding of how it happened--remain alive in the nation's collective memory.

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  1STARTING FROM THE VERY BEGINNINGWe can, of course, little more than hypothesize how our racial passions first began to overtake us, how humankind’s obsession to embrace the similar and despise the different got stuck in our communal psyche, and why, most pertinent to this book, white people have seemingly forever assumed an innate superiority over black people. As to the latter, right through at least the last couple of millennia white dominance has been ascribed by white-skinned societies to God as his—or nature’s—plan, and that has seemed to many such ascribers
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REVIEWS

Praise for American Nightmare

“Sweeping history . . . Packard compels us to remember that one cannot effectively confront the challenges posed by contemporary race relations without recognizing the agonies of the American past.” –Christian Science Monitor

"This book takes a broad, scholarly, but still readable look at Jim Crow--the system of laws and customs that confined blacks to second-class citizenship post-slavery and pre-civil rights." –Philadelphia Inquirer

"This is a clear, concise historical narrative of a draconian reality . . . Packard carefully places these facts in a firm historical context. Even when the material is familiar, he weaves it into a sturdy and often shocking American tapestry." –Publishers Weekly

"A 'must read' . . . Mr. Packard's book is a very powerful and unsettling story of our nation's century-long 'pogrom' by vengeful white Southerners against their black neighbors. Reading these pages, one is reminded just how brutal and widespread white supremacy was in the South, especially in Mississippi and Alabama." –Washington Times

"Credible and poignant history." –Kirkus Reviews

"This is an important documentation of an oft-forgotten piece of our history; an even-handed, well-crafted relating of Jim Crow's tragic southern reign, and his none-too-soon dethronement." – Jim Fraiser, Author of Mississippi River Country Tales and a former Assistant Attorney General, Mississippi Civil Litigation Division

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American Nightmare

The History of Jim Crow

Jerrold M. Packard

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

St. Martin's Press

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