Most people have heard about “Jim Crow” laws but have no idea where the actual term “Jim Crow” actually originated. Jim Crow laws were named after an antebellum minstrel show character. Minstrel shows were one of the first forms of American entertainment. The show tradition started in 1843 when a group of four white men from Virginia, known as the “Virginia Minstrels,” smeared black cork on their faces and then danced to a song in a small hall in New York City.
There was one performer in particular, who became famous for his act, Daddy Rice. He was a white actor whose routine was inspired by an elderly African man from Louisville, Kentucky, who sang and danced to a song that ended with the same chorus:
Come listen all you galls and boys,
I’m going to sing a little song,
My name is Jim Crow.
Weel about and turn about and do jis so,
Eb’ry time I weel about I jump Jim Crow.”
Rice traveled from state-to-state performing his routine and ended it to this chorus. The Jim Crow laws were named for the minstrel show character in the late 1800s by the legislatures of the Southern states that discriminated against African Americans. The Reconstruction was a different time in America, blacks and whites rode together and even lived in the same communities. However, some white people were having trouble with blacks living too close for comfort. So, to gain more control over black people throughout the city, the Jim Crow laws were created, restricting the freedom of African Americans.
Daddy Rice, the original Jim Crow, became rich and famous because of his skills as a minstrel. However, he lived an extravagant lifestyle, and when he died in New York on September 19, 1860, he was in poverty.