Background: African-Americans

Being African-American in Alabama in the 1930s

Being African-American in Alabama in the 1930s was not easy. Although President Abraham Lincoln had made an Emancipation Proclamation freeing all African-American slaves in 1863, during the American Civil War, it wasn't until 1865 that it was enforced in many of the Southern States.

So in 1930 African-Americans had only been free citizens for sixty-five years. Racial discrimination and prejudice were still common in Alabama. Right up until the 1960s there was a policy of segregation, which meant separate facilities, such as schools, toilets and restaurants, for Whites and African-Americans. Alabama, and many other American states, had specific 'Jim Crow' laws to enforce segregation.

There was also a widespread belief amongst Whites that African-American men were sexual predators and were a threat to White women. Many White men did live with Black women but it was thought to be scandalous for a Black man to live with a White woman. A large majority of White people believed that African-Americans were second-class citizens and treated them that way.

Read an interview with a woman about growing up black and poor in Alabama in the 1930s. Click: book-icong-if

Find out more about African-American History:
African-American history
From slavery to freedom

Find out about lynching:
Lynching in America
About lynching

Find out about racial stereotyping by looking through racist memorabilia:

Wide Reading — Race Relations:
Click on the book icon to see a few suggestions: book-icon-gif


Activities Tasks
Study the images from Life magazine (August 9, 1937, pp. 50-52) and answer the questions. Click:book-icon-gif
Research the history of slavery in the United States. Prepare a slide show presentation or a poster explaining what impact slavery had on the attitudes of White people in Alabama in the 1930s.
Imagine you are part of an archaeological team looking at the lives of slaves before the American Civil War. Research your topic and prepare a museum exhibit detailing what you found during an archaeological dig at an old cotton plantation in rural Alabama.
Imagine you are a social researcher interviewing someone about what it was like to grow up as an African-American child in Alabama in the 1930s. Script your conversation.