Birmingham, Alabama Issues Racial Segregation Ordinances

This selection of city ordinances from Birmingham, Alabama, highlights the often absurd lengths to which local leaders in the Deep South were willing to go in order to maintain the strict separation of races. These "Jim Crow" laws, passed by Birmingham lawmakers between 1944 and 1951, governed both public spaces (such as restaurants and bus stations) and private interactions (such as game playing). Civil rights activists targeted such state and local laws with increasingly high-profile demonstrations during the 1950s and 1960s; the laws were eventually overturned by the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

SECTION 369. SEPARATION OF RACES.

It shall be unlawful to conduct a restaurant or other place for the serving of food in the city, at all which white and colored people are served in the same room, unless such white and colored persons are effectually separated by a solid partition extending from the floor upward to a distance of seven feet or higher, and unless a separate entrance from the street is provided for each compartment.

SECTION 597. NEGROES AND WHITE PERSONS NOT TO PLAY TOGETHER

It shall be unlawful for a negro and a white person to play together or in company with each other in any game of cards or dice, dominoes or checkers.

Any person, who being the owner, proprietor or keeper or superintendent, of any tavern, inn, restaurant or other public house or public place, or the clerk, servant or employee or such owner, proprietor, keeper or superintendent, knowingly permits a negro and a white person to play together or in company with each other at any game with cards, dice, dominoes or checkers, in his house or on his premises shall, on conviction, be punished as provided in section 4.

ORDINANCE 798-F

An Ordinance To Amend Section 597 Of The General Code Of The City Of Birmingham Of 1944.

Be It Ordained by the Commission of the City of Birmingham that Section 597 of the General Code of the City of Birmingham of 1944 be, and said section is, amended so as to read as follows: S.E.C. 597 Negroes and white Persons Not To Play Together

It shall be unlawful for a Negro and a white person to play together or in company with each other in any game of cards, dice, dominoes, checkers, baseball, softball, football, basketball or similar games.

Any person. Who being the owner, proprietor or keeper or superintendent of any tavern, inn, restaurant, ball field, stadium or other public house or public place, or the clerk, servant or employee of such owner, proprietor, keeper, or superintendent, knowingly permits a Negro and a white person to play together or in company with each other, at any game with a baseball, softball, basketball or other ball, in his house or on his premises or in a house on premises under his charge, supervision or control, shall on conviction, be punished as provided in Section 4.

Approved Sept. 19, 1950 A true copy, Eunice S. Hewes, City Clerk Post-Herald, Sept 21, 1950

SECTION 939. SEPARATION OF RACES.

It shall be unlawful for a negro and a white person to play together or in company with each other at any game of pool or billiards.

Any person, who, being the owner, proprietor or in charge of any poolroom, pooltable, billiard room or billiard table, knowingly permits a negro and a white person to play together or in company with each other at any game or pool or billiards on his premises shall, upon conviction, be punished as provided in section 4.

SECTION 1002. SEPARATION OF RACES.

Every common carrier engaged in operation streetcars in the city for the carriage of passengers shall provide equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races by providing separate cars or by clearly indicating or designating by physical visible marks the area to be occupied be each race in any streetcar in which the two races are permitted to be carried together and by confining each race to occupancy of the area of such streetcar so set apart for it.

Every common carrier engaged in operating streetcars in the city for the carrying of passengers shall provide for each car used for white and colored passengers, separate entrances and exits to and from such cars in such a manner as to prevent intermingling of the white and colored passengers when entering or leaving such a car….

And it shall be unlawful for any person, contrary to the provisions of this section providing for equal and separate accommodations for the white and colored races on streetcars, to ride or attempt to ride in a car or a division of a car designated for the race to which such person does not belong.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . STATE OF ALABAMA

JEFFERSON COUNTY

I, Eunice S. Hewes. City Clerk of the City of Birmingham, do hereby certify the above are true and correct copies of Section 369, 597, 859, 939, 1002, 1413 of the 1944 Code of Birmingham.

GIVEN UNDER MY HAND AND CORPORATE SEAL of the City of Birmingham, this the 25th day of May, 1951.

Focus Questions

List two things that were unlawful under Section 597 of the Birmingham Civil Rights Ordinances.

What are two changes to Section 597 made by the Ordinance 798-F?

Source | Birmingham's Racial Segregation Ordinances, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; from Teachers' Domain, Special Collection: Civil Rights, http://www.teachersdomain.org/resources/iml04/soc/ush/civil/bhamseg/index.html.
Creator | City of Birmingham, Alabama
Item Type | Laws/Court Cases
Cite This document | City of Birmingham, Alabama, “Birmingham, Alabama Issues Racial Segregation Ordinances,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed July 29, 2014, http://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/866.