The importance of language in the system of segregation is also addressed in Part II of the documentary. Language (or the selective use of language) was very much a component of racist thought. It was a means of enforcing, however subtle, the caste system. One word ("Mr.") confered dignity and respect; one word ("boy") denied both.

During the Jim Crow era of segregation, white people did not address black people with the customary titles of respect, the so-called courtesy titles. The "Mr." or "Mrs." did not appear before the name of a black person referred to in a newspaper article. White children called elderly blacks by their first names or as "uncle" and "aunt." Language helped define and reenforced the inferior status of black people and the nature of the relationship between white and black. In many black communities (Natchez, Mississippi, being one example), early Civil Rights activists demanded the use of "courtesy titles" for black people. It was a minor demand that signified a great deal.


The use of language in racist thought can be very subtle. In the documentary, Avery Alexander recalls the story of his elderly grandfather and the younger Mr. Ginrich, a white man. The way each man addressed the other left the child Avery Alexander perplexed. It was his introduction to the question of race. Use this quote to explain to the students the ways in which language served as a pillar of the segregated society.

This white man was about thirty or forty years old, and my grandfather was about seventy-five years old. The young white man used to call my grandfather 'Arthur,' and my grandfather used to call him 'Mr. Ginrich'. I said, 'Why do you call him Mr. Ginrich and he calls you Arthur?' He said, 'Oh boy, go ahead in and shut up.' I then realized the difference between white and black.


Segregation was deeply rooted in the Southern history, as slavery had been before it. Relatively few people knew a life different from the life of Jim Crow. Emphasize to the students how difficult it is to confront ideas and practices that generations have grown accustomed to and have taken for granted.


Here are some quotes from both whites and blacks taken from Part II of the documentary. Use these quotes with your students to promote discussion about how people viewed segregation and how difficult it was to overcome the acceptance of segregation as a way of life:

"I was never conscious of that (segregation) being a problem as far as I was concerned."

-- Vic Schiro, New Orleans mayor in early 1960's

"It was a way of life, right? It was something we were taught and were brought up with and we accepted it...Since you were not on the losing end, you pretty much took it for granted."

-- Joe Giarusso, New Orleans police superintendent

"We thought that being separated in that fashion was the way it should have been then."

-- Llewelyn Soniat, director of the NAACP in New Orleans

"It was degrading to blacks and it gave a false sense of security to whites."

-- Dr. Daniel Thompsen


Emphasize to the students that the acceptance of segregation by many people puts into perspective the actions of those who challenged segregation. Where did these people find the strength to take on a system that appeared omnipotent? Explain to the students that some people within the black community itself looked with fear upon those who demanded change. Change is impossible, many argued. The system is too powerful. Don't risk it. You'll get killed.


If the selective use of language was a subtle manner in which segregation was enforced, violence (and the implicit threat of violence) was the ultimate guarantor of the unequal system. Just as the bull whip had been used on plantations to instill fear and obedience, violence was employed to reverse the political gains blacks had momentarily enjoyed during the period of Radical Reconstruction (1867-'77). White militia organizations (the Ku Klux Klan, the Knights of the White Camellia, the White League, the Regulators, local militia groups, even the less than ominous sounding "rifle clubs") inflicted violence on blacks who asserted their rights both in New Orleans and in the rural regions of the state. The bloodshed was substantial, particularly at the time of elections. The memory of violence was passed from one generation of blacks to another, cultivating fear and resignation.

Explain to the students that the police were the ultimate enforcers of segregation. In this respect, Joe Giarusso, the New Orleans police superintendent during the desegregation crisis, is an individual whose comments in A House Divided should be studied carefully.


How does Giarusso justify the actions of the police department during the desegregation crisis?


His basic argument is that events were forced upon him and that he was simply following orders.

The system of segregation rested fundamentally on the willingness of at least some whites to use violence to subjugate the black populace and the willingness of the rest of the whites to do nothing about this violence.Violence was very much a part of the political landscape. It was given publicity. The body of a black man lynched on the edge of town was left to hang as a warning to others. Black people lived in a veritable police-state. As a result, any black person who confronted the inequities of the system did so with the full understanding that he or she might pay for these actions with their lives. In addition, the violence meted out to blacks was sometimes random and served no purpose other than to vent the pathological frustrations of a person who was in control simply because of the color of his skin.


In Part II, Avery Alexander recalls one particularly brutal police officer:

There was a wake. Now, the wake as we knew it at that time, there were no facilities for a wake, blacks didn't have adequate funeral homes. We set up the coffin in the front room. Friends come around and we stand around, and while we were standing there a white policeman came by. I need not say white policeman' because there were no black policemen. They got out of their vehicles and said, Run you niggers, run.' They did that all the time. One fellow couldn't hear. He stood there looking around. Didn't I tell you to run?' And he shot and killed him, and of course his people grieved, How terrible it was.' But we couldn't even petition. If you said anything, you in turn would be arrested.

Emphasize to the students that under Jim Crow segregation a black person had no legal recourse. Avery Alexander says, "...we couldn't even petition. If you said anything, you in turn would be arrested." The judges were representatives of Jim Crow. They enforced the law, and the law required segregation.

Revius Ortique, a leader of the desegregation efforts in New Orleans, remembers that his father believed that white people would not be inclined to give up the privileges Jim Crow had bestowed upon them: "My father always said there would be bloodshed. He felt strongly that white people would not yield peacefully, that you would have had to fight for it."



(to teachers): before viewing Part II, review the names and terms listed below with your students. Give the students the blank "Part II: Terms" and have them fill it in during or after the viewing, which ever way you feel is best.

1. Lolis Elie

- Lolis Elie is a black lawyer who during the Civil Rights period served (with Robert Collins and Nils Douglas) as counsel for many activists including those of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality).

2. Joe Giarusso

- Joe Giarusso was superintendent of New Orleans police during the desegregation of the city. He later served as a city councilman.

3. Oretha Castle-Haley

- Oretha Castle (she later married fellow activist Richard Haley who became a CORE director) was a student at Southern University in New Orleans when she became a participant of the Dryades Street Boycott in 1960. At odds with the step by step legal approach of the NAACP, Rudy Lombard, Jerome Smith, and Oretha Castle formed a New Orleans chapter of CORE in 1960. She helped organize the Canal Street boycotts that began in September 1960. Her sister, Doris Jean Castle, was also an activist. Their parents were very supportive of their efforts, and the family home served as a headquarters for CORE activists in New Orleans.

4. Vic Schiro

- Vic Schiro was mayor of New Orleans in the early 1960's during much of the desegre gation crisis. He replaced Chep Morrison. In his approach to desegregation, Schiro was largely instructed on what to do by the white business leaders of the city.

5. Jerome Smith

- Jerome Smith was one of the leading members of the New Orleans chapter of CORE. His father, a merchant seaman, had taught him to defend and demand courtesy for his mother. His mother read poetry to the children each night. Jerome Smith joined the Dryades Street Boycott in 1960 and helped picket the shopping district. He joined the demonstrations at Southern University in 1960. As a CORE activist, he participated in the sit-ins on Canal Street in the early 1960's and also in the Freedom Rides in 1961.

6. Llewellyn Soniat

- Llewellyn Soniat was director of the New Orleans branch of the NAACP. He helped organize many of the protests in New Orleans, a task from which he did not shy despite the fact that as a family man he risked a great deal.

7. Race screen

- The race-screen was an implement of segregation used on street cars and buses to divide seating between white (in the front) and black (in the back). It was positioned on the back of a seat and could be moved at the convenience of any white person and to the inconvenience of any black person.

8. "Star" street cars

- During ante-bellum times, the "star" street cars were reserved for black patrons; White patrons rode in a separate street car. This arrangement lasted until 1867 when at the start of Radical Reconstruction a law was passed that permitted both races be able to ride in the same street car. In 1902, the "star" street car was reintroduced and lasted until the segregated street car was established.

9. Plessy v. Ferguson

- The landmark Supreme Court case in 1896 established the constitutionality of "separate but equal" in public facilities. The case was the result of a law suit filed by Homer Plessy in New Orleans. Plessy, a light-skinned black person, was denied the right to sit in a "white only" coach of a train between New Orleans and Covington, Louisiana.

10. Rosa Parks

- Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white person in Montgomery, Alabama, in December 1955. Her arrest for having violated segregation laws was one of the sparks which led to the modern day Civil Rights movement.



Identify the following individuals and terms in complete sentences.

1. Lolis Elie -

2. Joe Giarusso -

3. Oretha Castle-Haley -

4. Vic Schiro -

5. Jerome Smith -

6. Llewellyn Soniat -

7. Race screen -

8. "Star" street cars -

9. Plessy v. Ferguson -

10. Rosa Parks -

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