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Reginald Hammond

Tuesday and Thursday SWC

The Terrible Affects of the Jim Crow Laws

Colored people were heavily discriminated against in the 1950’s by the Jim Crow laws.

The Jim Crow laws were used to limit the rights of colored people and separate the facilities that

colored and white people used. But in some cases the laws were unreasonable. In the stories

There Ought to be a Law, Income Tax and Simple on Military Integration, Hughes dangerously

exploits the limited knowledge of Simple to critique both the government and the military.

Hughes uses these stories to demonstrate the terrible affects of the Jim Crow laws, by displaying

the unfairness for blacks, Simples feelings about racial inequalities and how Simple’s negative

feelings toward the people who treat him wrong.

In the stories Income Tax, Hughes highlights the racial inequalities in the government, to

demonstrate how terrible life was for blacks in the 1950’s. Income Tax opens up with Simple

stressing about the taxes that he has to pay. After adding up all of the expenses he needs to pay

for he comes up to a total of more than 600 dollars. He then complains, “that tomorrow the man

is demanding-not asking-for money that [Simple] not only [does not] have but ain’t even seen

yet” (Hughes, Income Tax 64). Since Simple is unemployed, it will be hard for him to cover all

of the expenses. But, unfortunately he has does not have a place to go for support. The last time

he tried to get help, the “[notoriety republicans] charged him so much that [Simple] got

discouraged” (Hughes, Income Tax 65). Hughes uses this idea to further emphasize the idea that

coloreds have an unfair disadvantage. Most likely the only people that can afford the cost for

getting financial help are white people. The United States government should have services for

all people to help pay overwhelming bills. It is not logical for someone to need to pay an

abundance of money to help pay for another service. Simple also expresses how coloreds are
rarely safe and he feels that they need to be cautious of their actions wherever he goes. Coloreds

can not feel comfortable using the toilet. Simple mentions that, “Down in Mississippi a colored

soldier has to have a gun even to go to the toilet” (Hughes, Income Tax 68). It is astonishing to

believe that of all places, coloreds can not feel safe using the rest room. But nevertheless, there is

a Jim Crow law that says, “Every employer of white or negro males shall provide for such white

or negro males reasonably accessible and separate toilet facilities” (Randall 1). Hughes mentions

this to demonstrate how absurd the Jim Crow laws are. The only purpose for a toilet is to collect

human waste. There is no reason for people to have to use different latrines to perform a natural

bodily function.

Hughes also uses the story Income Tax to criticize the military, in telling how blacks are

treated in the army. “They had [the] colored troops quartered away down at one end of the camp,

six miles back from the gate, up against the levee”(Hughes, Income Tax 68). It is unreasonable to

have the coloreds and whites separated during the war. The only things soldiers should be

concerned with during the war, is winning the war. It does not make sense to have segregation in

such a crucial situation. In fact, it is anti-productive for its goal. The bathroom services are also

divided in the army. A black soldier was told to “Halt!” (Hughes, Income Tax 68) when he tried

to use a white latrine, which was closest to where he was working. Using the bathroom is one of

the last things that should matter during a war. Convenient transportation was not as accessible

for blacks as it was for whites either. “Colored [people] had to wait and wait and WAIT at the

camp gate for a bus to get to town because they filled the buses up with white soldiers and the

colored soldiers had to stand behind and wait” (Hughes, Income Tax 66). It is not fair for colored

people to be forced into fighting and for them to be mistreated throughout there time in war.

Then after the war, they have to come back to America be mistreated more.
Hughes uses Simples feelings about racial inequalities to illuminate the devastating

effects of the Jim Crow Laws. Simple is not only upset that he can not pay his taxes, but he also

does not think he should have to pay them. Simple feels that, “Its hell to pay taxes when I can’t

even vote down home” (Hughes, Income Tax 65). Simple is forced to support something that he

has no control over. He is constantly being mistreated to the point that he does not feel that he is

treated as a human. In fact, Simple thinks that animals are treated better than blacks. He says that

“the government protects and takes care of buffaloes and deers-which is more than the

government does for [him] or [his] kinfolks down South” (Hughes, There Ought to be a Law 63).

Hughes is criticizing the government. It is not fair that there are many Jim Crow laws that are

taking away from the rights of blacks, but there are laws that are giving protection for animals.

There are colored people that can not use the bathroom without being hackled, why should

animals be protected in the wild. He has to pay for taxes but he can not vote. In Income Tax,

Simple compares taxes to hell. Hughes uses Simple in this situation to show how badly the Jim

Crow laws affect colored people. There is nothing nice about hell. It is an eternal burning in

darkness and it is not a place where anyone wants to be. In the story Simple on Military

Integration, Simple states, “to be shot down is bad for the body, but to be Jim Crowed is worse

for the spirit” (Hughes, Simple on Military Integration 81). Once again Simple relates his pain

from the Jim Crow laws to his spirit. He compares the effects of the Jim Crow laws to eternal

pain. “In fact, they have hurt [his] soul” (Hughes, There Ought to be a Law 61). Simple also

makes Jim Crow laws out to be worse than the war. “Jim Crow happens to men everyday down

South, whereas a man’s not in battle every day” (Hughes, Income Tax 65). Blacks are constantly

treated badly and these effects are so horrible that Simple compares them to eternal pain. Simple

feels that “Congress ought to set aside some place where [colored people] can go and nobody can

jump on [them] and beat [them], neither lynch [them] nor Jim Crow [them] every day” (Hughes,
There Ought to be a Law 62). Once again Simples pain from the Jim Crow laws has him wishing

for goals that are very unattainable. The Jim Crow laws have a terrible everlasting affect on

colored people in America.

Simple’s past encounters with racism, makes him revengeful which also show the affects

of the Jim Crow laws. Simple wants black men to have more authority. He thinks that whites

should, “make up for how bad they have treated [blacks] in the past” (Hughes, Simple on

Military Integration 80). He has suffered so much from the Jim Crow laws that just being equal

with whites is not enough. Simple “has never yet seen no colored general pinning a medal on a

white private. That is what [he] wants to see” (Hughes, Simple on Military Integration 81).

Hughes makes a very controversial point with this idea, critiquing the military. According to the

Jim Crow laws “No organization of colored troops shall be permitted where white troops are

available, and while white permitted to be organized, colored troops shall be under the command

of white officers”(Randall 1). Simple’s aspirations for colored people are too optimistic. The Jim

Crow law says that coloreds can not be organized without the authority of whites, so it will be

nearly impossible for colored people to pin other soldiers. Simple also wants a “place where [he

can fight in peace and not get fined them with high fines” (Hughes, There Ought to be a Law

63). He says that if a white person were to fight in a bar that they would be fined half as much as

a black person.

In the stories Simple on Military Integration, Income Tax and There Ought to be a Law,

Hughes uses Simple’s stories to illustrate how the terrible and unreasonable affects of the Jim

Crow laws on colored people. Hughes critiques both the government and the military with these

laws, showing how the laws follow blacks both inside and outside of America. The Jim Crow

laws were bad for colored people whether they were out fighting in a war or in America trying to

pay taxes. The pain from these laws was bad enough to hurt the souls of many colored people.
Works Cited

There Ought to be a Law. Hughes, Langston. The Best of Simple. New York: Hill and

Wang, 1990. 61-64

Income Tax. Hughes, Langston. The Best of Simple. New York: Hill and Wang, 1990.


Simple on Military Integration. Hughes, Langston. The Best of Simple. New York: Hill

and Wang, 1990. 80-83

Randall, Vernellia R. "Race, Racism and American Law: Examples of Jim Crow Laws."

Academic.udayton.edu. 2001. 26 July 2009