Art Chance: John Brown and Jim Crow



A few years ago I would have said that Jim Crow, like John Brown, lay ‘a moldering in the grave.   

Comrades Barack Obama, Stacey Abrams, and their ilk have brought both back to life. 

For those with more recent and therefore inferior government school education, John Brown was an ardent abolitionist. Brown and his sons first claimed attention in Kansas during the time it was referred to as “Bleeding Kansas.”  The fruit of “popular sovereignty” was guerilla war, as Kansas was flooded with pro-slavery adherents and abolitionists.   

Brown had come to Kansas with a wagonload of arms and had the financial support of several prominent Northeastern abolitionists, some of whom were or became close to the Lincoln Administration.   

After pro-slavery guerillas sacked the town of Lawrence, Kansas, Brown led his guerilla band against a settlement of pro-slavery settlers and massacred five men by hacking them to death in what became known as the Pottawatomie Massacre.    

Brown went on to participate in a convention of abolitionists in Ontario which set up something like a provisional U.S. government opposed to slavery. Again supplied and funded by prominent abolitionists, Brown moved to Maryland and established another guerilla band with the intent of capturing the U.S. Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, and using the arms captured to arm a slave rebellion in Virginia.  

That raid went awry and Brown and his surviving guerillas were captured by U.S. troops commanded by Col. Robert E. Lee.  Brown and his surviving band were hanged by the State of Virginia, and he became a martyr to abolition; the song “John Brown’s Body” became a common marching song for Union troops in the coming Civil War.

Jim Crow was a character in minstrel shows dating back to the 1830s, but the name became attached to the laws restricting the civil rights of blacks in The South after the restoration of self-government to the former Confederate States in 1877, though such restrictive laws were not confined solely to the former Confederate states or former slaveholding states.   

Shortly after it ratified the 14th Amendment, Ohio made it illegal for blacks to enter the State. Oregon, for many years, excluded blacks from entering the territory and state; its tardiness in ratifying the 14th and 15th Amendments is right up there with Mississippi’s.   

While most de jure ethnic and racial discrimination ended by the 1970s, de facto discrimination persists and is ironically most vociferously advocated by the left and especially in academia. But now, Jim Crow Laws are the new “bloody shirt” of the Left.

I grew up in the rigidly de jure segregated South of the 1950s and 1960s; I know what Jim Crow Laws look like. I knew the words and the tune to “John Brown’s Body,” but we didn’t sing it, and there were still people who would turn their back to the stage if “Battle Hymn of the Republic” was sung or played. My most definitive memory is of White and Colored water fountains and entrances to buildings. 

The theater in my home town confined blacks to the balcony. Restaurants and hotels prominently displayed “White Only” signs. No black would have gone to the front door of a white person’s home. Even at a young age I appreciated the irony of the fact that blacks and whites would eat together in the fields and even drink from the same dipper and from the same water bucket in the fields, but the segregation of eating elsewhere was strong enough to warrant mention in Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  

We had a black hired man named Martin. At lunch time, Martin would come to the back door and my mother or grandmother would give him “dinner,” as it is called in The South, alone at the fairly fancy table in the dining room while we ate at the kitchen table.  

Southern railroads even had a special type of passenger car used on routes that didn’t cross state lines called a “Jim Crow Car.”   It was a combination baggage/freight and passenger car with the baggage compartment in the center of the car and the White and Colored seating separated by the baggage compartment.

My last contact with the vestiges of de jure segregation was in late 1970 or early 1971. We were living in Atlanta but out of nostalgia if nothing else I wanted my pregnant wife to see my family doctor in my home town because I knew and trusted him. The signs were down but the separate White and Colored entrances to the waiting room were still there. 

Out of habit I took my wife in through the white entrance and checked in. The white waiting room was packed and there were people sitting on the floor down the hall. The black waiting room was empty, so we sat over there to not a few raised eyebrows. My hair was long enough and I’d been gone long enough to be a Yankee anyway, so I didn’t care. 

We saw the doctor and since it was late in the day went to my parents’ house rather than drive back to Atlanta.   They’d already heard about our shocking act. My father’s reaction was words along these lines though I can’t remember the direct quote: We haven’t seen you in almost two years and the first day you’re here, you do something we’re going to have to live with. My parents and I had had a, shall we say, difficult patch for the last several years, and I guess that was just a continuation and not the last time.   

That is an example of how strong the real “Jim Crow” was, and by Southern standards, my parents were liberal on racial issues.   My father was a small town merchant and his advice to me on racial issues was, “son, it doesn’t matter what color the hand is; the money is green.”

Your President, not mine, knows all about Jim Crow, after all, he was buddies with a Ku Klux Klan officer. My father always said he didn’t know who was in the Klan but he knew who wasn’t in the high school band and yet still bought white shoes. Maryland was a segregated state that mandated segregated public accommodations. 

The District of Columbia was too, but they don’t like to talk about that. Actually, once the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act became a reality, the once rigidly segregated states of the deep South accepted de-segregation with less opposition than the Border States or even the formerly abolitionist capital, Massachusetts. 

Opposition to school desegregation through busing was particularly vehement in the Border States such as Maryland, and Biden was vocal in his opposition.  

“Liberal” Boston’s opposition to busing was on the nightly news almost constantly. In the Deep South, those with the motive and means just formed private “White Only” schools, bars, and restaurants styled as private social clubs.

Stacey Abrams was born in 1973 and went to integrated schools and on to an Ivy League education; she knows absolutely nothing about the Jim Crow South. The year she was born, Maynard Jackson became the mayor of Atlanta and the first black mayor of a major city in The South. 

She was born in Wisconsin but her family moved to Atlanta in time for her to graduate from an integrated high school, Avondale, there. She had a “career track” post-secondary education and we can be permitted to speculate who paid for it and how much of it was affirmative action. 

The reality is that Atlanta is the mecca of black opportunity in America for anyone working outside the entertainment industry, and it isn’t bad even for entertainment opportunity for blacks. Macon, Georgia, 75 miles south, was once the center of black “soul” and rhythm and blues” music in the Country, though Detroit was a strong competitor. Frankly, Abrams is a product of black privilege available only in Atlanta and maybe a few other black majority cities, and yet she is screeching about Jim Crow II.

The reality was that in the Deep South, blacks and whites were used to living together. Public accommodations were segregated, but so long as The South remained primarily agricultural, private life outside the home was very integrated. “Old Martin” as we called our hired man, had as much influence on me in my youth as my father and grandfather had, more on some things.   

When I was very young my playmates were as often the kids of the fieldhands as were the kids of my white neighbors. As I got older and more able I worked, at least as much as the kid whose father owns the place works, in the fields, took meals in the fields, and drank from the same water bucket.   

Were we equal? No! Were we separate? No, not really. And for much of our lives we lived together. Ironically, now that isn’t the case where I grew up; public accommodations are totally integrated, work is totally integrated; personal life is totally segregated unless there is some political or economic reason for blacks and whites to be together. It is a lot like what I experienced in Juneau between Democrats and Republicans who were only in the same room at a public event, in a public accommodation, or if they were being paid to be there.

The whole “Jim Crow II” meme is aimed at the ignorant and emotional. The government schools have made two generations, more in some places, of Americans pig ignorant of our culture and history; it was for a reason. You can tell most people under 50 in America anything and they’re likely to believe it if you speak from a position of perceived authority.

Art Chance is a retired Director of Labor Relations for the State of Alaska, formerly of Juneau and now living in Anchorage. He is the author of the book, “Red on Blue, Establishing a Republican Governance,” available at Amazon. 


  1. Dr. Alveda King, MLK niece, said about a year ago during the nations more recent racial demonstrations, “They’re playing the race card again”. Haven’t forgotten her words, she understands as Mr. Chance does.

  2. True history from someone that lived it, is seldom available anymore and, when available, it is completely discounted by the radical left that wishes to promote an alternate “history” to support their ideology.

  3. Separation and elevation of self whom though themselves more important than they actually are has been around since Lucifer fell from Heaven like a falling star when he thought more of himself thinking he can rule Heaven better than the One who created him .
    As long as this world continues, there will never be equity between peoples as long as evil is allowed to roam about the earth. There will be ALWAYS a people group thinking they are more superior than another peoples because of-.

    The one thing I notice where a person and specific group of peoples struggle is where they lack social development skills, when they sadly prefer their own company over the company of others around them. Or, they prefer a particular type of peoples because of obvious common interests, opinions, ideas, and family background. You know! Before 2002 people had such weak social developments skills already. When the internet gave possibility to develop social media tools such as Yahoo Chat, AOL chat rooms, Myspace, Facebook, and this new tool consumed peoples lives their little developed social skills to get along with others obliterated. Now, we become a generation of online users. When people meet others in-person they are unsure and uncomfortable how to act and speak when they don’t have their online personality, they hadn’t developed their in-person personality. They fall back on their online personality for their in-personality which makes them come across as very impersonal.

    Racism begins in the seed when you separate yourself from others.

  4. Art, the most profound words that you write are the last paragraph. I spent my first ten years in a totally white, German work ethic community (I think it has been studied and people of German ancestry lack the gene for joy in their lives). Moving, I encountered other cultures first hand and I adapted right along with the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. Walking down the street of my first childhood community today looks nothing like when I was a child, with every hue of skin out and about often holding hands (including within my immediate family and fully accepted as relatives). This conservative red outpost is a liberal utopia where people get along and guns don’t shoot people. But media and politicians (I repeat myself) are trying so hard to drive a stake in this harmony, to set neighbor against neighbor and brother against brother, that I cannot help believing that their true ulterior motives are to destroy us. Is society perfect? No, many inequities still exist. But are opportunities equal? Almost universally resoundingly yes! The opportunity is there, what you make of it is up to you. Education is available, even kind-of in public schools and definitely on the internet or (God forbid) books. Learn, don’t do drugs, take any job and do it to the best of your ability (you don’t know work until you spend a day milking cows, then shoveling manure, then baling hay, then shoveling more manure and finally milking cows again, repeat for $1.50 per hour, $20 on an exceptional day), don’t have kids out of wedlock and if you do, get married and make it work for your kids’ sake. Odds are very high that you will be successful in life and your children will exceed you and provide well for their parents who loved them.

  5. In that vein…….”equity”

    “The government cannot measure equality of opportunity, but it can measure equality of result. If the results are not equal they wrongly assume unequal opportunity. Ingenuity, inventiveness, entrepreneurial skill, determination and most important effort are extremely difficult to measure, but those are usually the key factors in creating result.
    Until the government figures out how to measure those factors, “equity” will never be properly measured.”
    Thomas A.Murphy

  6. Another excellent history lesson from Art !! Growing up in Alaska and later North Dakota we seldom even saw a black person unless they were the rare exchange student or perhaps scholarshipped athlete imported by the school. Going thru army basic training in 1974 in Missouri was memorable and I remember our company of “trainees” assembled at attention in front of the black NCOIC E-7 who was the top guy of the trading cadre giving us this admonition. “ Do not cross me or I will kill You” and then “ I do not want to spend the rest of my life in prison”. To my knowledge nobody crossed him. I saw excellent leadership skills demonstrated by one tall New Yorker who I believe I would have filled anywhere. He was a black trainee.Later I took my MOS training in Tex’s at Ft Sam Houston. I will never forget our elite training battalion sharply marching into a tight formation under a terraced assembly area early in the morning. Lookin up I saw silver haired command sergeant Major Yanda standing Regal and tall , almost like a king reviewing HIS troops. He was a Hispanic who had come up thru the ranks with service in , WW 2, Korea, Viet Nam

  7. Thanks Art, well said. Reply to Jen: don’t blame our lack of speaking on social media, or the resulting racial anger. Racial anger is created, not natural, and stirred up by folks who want to manipulate a group. Anger breeds more anger – it is highly contagious – and racism practiced makes the victimized and the victimizers more racist. What’s scary is the stereotyping that results in the minds of those who haven’t taken part in the initial offense. Translation: BLM is creating the racism they seek to eliminate – most of which wasn’t there to start with. Art, the only pertinent thing you didn’t bring into your essay was the label “Uncle Tom” – when BLM accuses Clarence Thomas and Thomas Sowell of being Uncle Toms, they defeat their own cause.

  8. Once again, Art is pointing out the foibles of being human. The person standing next to me is human and that’s it.

  9. Bottom line:
    We have regressed as a nation while attempting to harmonize the races.
    As Art has so eloquently stated by anecdote, Blacks and Whites lived in a relatively unified existence 50 and more years ago.
    So what happened?
    Academics and the media needed division and controversy to keep their professions viable. The results are a torn-up country. Democrats and Lefties ARE the problem.

  10. Yup. People who push back against those who have held them down can definitely be a problem. That’s how the United States of America came about.
    Looks like things are still on track, including those in the lead fighting hard to keep it.

  11. I think I figured out what’s behind Critical Race Theory – My observations for my 75 years is that some white people, a small minority, are actually real racists. Call it ten percent or less.
    There’s maybe another ten percent who are “sorta” racist, but only when surrounded by real racists.
    CRT paints all whites as racists. It’s an attempt by the real racists to present themselves as a majority, a great majority. They “glue” every white to them, saying that “We’re all racists”.
    They wrap themselves with a blanket statement that keeps them from feeling or looking like outliers. The CRT ten percent suddenly looks like ninety percent.
    Their numbers appear greater because those who are social snobs, can sort of appear to be racist.
    CRT wraps all whites in a racist blanket. It’s a form of brain washing. Trick enough people into believing that they’re racist, and they will start acting like they are.

  12. JOSEPHDJ, 100% agree with most of your post, but replace the word ‘white’ with ‘people’. There are a few, likely less than 10%, of every shade of skin who are terrified of others different than themselves. I personally encountered and experienced this, as have my children of color. They are out there and they may wear a façade of changing, but they will not. If it is any consolation they generally tend to be either completely uninformed (and might be enlightened) or else on the lower side of the IQ scale. But it is certainly not limited to white people (and nobody is ‘white’, even those with albinism).

  13. Well written. The natural prejudice shared by all people at birth towards the unknown has been weaponized for the purpose of division and control. The US is by far the most racially homogenized nation.
    My grandma married a white man and moved to Seattle area from the Nome region. In those days, a mixed family could not own land or live in certain neighborhoods, and so she took pains to “fit” in and abandoned her Inupiaq language.
    Despite that she taught us to thank God for being born in America and advocated work ethic and Christian values. Everything the woke culture promotes is contrary to logic, strength and ethics. Of course there are growing pains to integrate cultures. Our shared heritage is exceptional recognizing our rights are inalienable granted by God not people.
    No longer are Ukivokmiut people living under the absolute authority of a chief/shaman, who would take whichever woman he wanted. Families no longer have to have 12 or more children to insure a sufficient number survive childhood.
    Now we are returning to a dark age of increasingly totalitarian rule by fully unethical and incompetent leaders. Our rights are expunged, young men are lazy, mooch off grandparents and too lazy to even get off the couch and catch a caribou for the family with gas and shells paid for by grandma. While spouting off nonsense about whites.
    And the lazy ignorant woke whites fake platitudes about Natives, and support cultural destruction through mass institutionalized welfare, killing off generations far more effectively than the US cavalry unleashed in pacification campaigns in the west states.
    The GOP are incompetent cowards, unfortunately, going along with the motivated Dems in their consolidation of power and reducing Americans to serf like status. Incompetent fools like Murkowski find a home with the GOP.
    We must teach our children to respect God and resist these clowns before the nation is utterly destroyed.

  14. Josephdj…….
    Good points. Our family has gotten along our entire lives with White folks. My fear is for the grandchildren of the minorities. There will be a backlash by White people when they get pushed too far. And the results will not be pretty for us. All of this politics and division will hurt us in the end.

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