C. Vann Woodward’s The Strange Career Of Jim CrowC. Vann Woodward illuminates one of the “ugliest” aspects of American societal history in his book The Strange Career of Jim Crow. His book is an overview of the development of the Jim Crow system, a set of racist laws put in place around the turn of the nineteenth century. Interestingly his book tracks the evolution of racism throughout American history. He not only shows where and when racism is developing but the different ways that the racism manifested itself in the North and South.
C. Vann Woodward published the first edition of his book in 1955, while the racial atmosphere was in a tumultuous state. Black Americans at the time were still suffering from the effects of the Supreme Court Decision Plessy vs. Ferguson from 1896, the “separate but equal” distinction of the law. His book is published in the heat of these debates and racial struggle, posing the question how complete his book could be. He then republishes the book three more times, his second revised edition was published in 1966, his third in 1974, and the last in 2001. The book is based on lectures which he delivered at the University of Virginia in 1954. With every revision, he includes more evidence for arguments and responds to literary criticism. With the Civil Rights Movement raging around him, Woodward sought to explain the way the environment had come to be the way it was.
In 1955 the Montgomery bus boycott was occurring as Woodward’s book was being published. With his first edition of the book, some of the most notable events of the civil rights movement had not yet occurred, Rosa Parks had not refused to give up her seat on the bus, the desegregation of schools was just beginning, and Martin …
…at they could and they dealt with what they couldn’t.
The most interesting thing that Woodward does in his book is that he keeps perspective and he makes sure that he includes as much up to date information as possible. He is careful to keep his own personal opinions in perspective and bases most of the book on research. C. Vann Woodward himself comes from a background where he has dealt with much of what he writes about and he does not let his prior experiences interfere with his work. While he responds to the criticisms of his work he does not attack people he addresses the ideas. He uses many reliable sources from historical documents to his contemporaries. He gives both sides to every argument and point that he makes and he is very thorough. While he does not keep his opinions completely out of the book he includes his opposition and their opinions as well.