Jim Crow is not actually a person, but the subject of a song performed by Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice. Rice was a white man who performed in blackface and, like most blackface performers, he denigrated blacks through his music, his stereotypical behavior, and his rude jokes. Most people are familiar with the name because it was given to a group of laws enacted after the American Civil War designed to keep blacks and whites separate. Some expressly forbid marriage or sexual contact between races, while others, like the famous one Rosa Parks violated, sectioned out public services as on buses where blacks had to ride in the back.
Jump Jim Crow is a lengthy song that was a bonafide hit among white Americans in the early 19th century, and the lyrics express a number of racist sentiments. The subject of the song is a slave, and he is satisfied with his lot. He is also sexually promiscuous and ignorant, and the song is usually sung in “supposed” slave dialect.
Southern conception of “separate but equal” was essentially the working out of Jim Crow laws. Such laws were made to keep blacks and whites apart, satisfying segregationists while pacifying the more liberal thinkers. They often fell short of the mark, however, because they were built on the premise that whites were superior to blacks and therefore deserved better services.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 declared most of these laws unconstitutional, although it would take many years more of persistent law enforcement to rid the Southern US of the “separate but equal” mindset. While most segregationist laws have been overturned, there are still many people in the South — and in the North for that matter — who persist in discriminating against blacks with all possible means.
Today, some groups still believe that their racism is justified. What these criticisms fail to address is the concept of informal, and off the books Jim Crow laws. For example, many people believe that African Americans don't always get equal justice before the law, and that past and current discrimination has led to higher rates of poverty and unemployment among the population.
Further, ignorance can be tied to the poor state of the school system in many congested US urban areas. Tours of schools in areas like Harlem and Washington D.C., with a majority of black students, tend to show buildings that are barely habitable, students having little access to supplies or books, and schools having extreme difficulty retaining teachers. This is not the fault of the people who live their and use these facilities, but of inadequate funding and/or leadership available to these schools.
As a result, Jim Crow sadly dances through the present until everyone is willing to share in the responsibility of becoming more tolerant and of supporting the rights of every student to a truly equal education. Further, continuing to stereotype blacks does the nation a great disservice, and it contributes to slow progress in achieving total social equality.