Jim Crow - Turncoat and Segregation

There are many phrases which seem to involve birding terms, but have expanded to refer to non-birding topics. One such example is Jim Crow.

The original use of Jim Crow was from a minstrel song sung in the south in the early to mid 1800s. The song went:

"Wheel about and turn about and jump Jim Crow"

and meant that Jim Crow was someone not to be trusted, a turncoat. The minstrels would dress up with black tar on their faces and make fun of black people, amusing the white audience with this. Jim was a very common name at the time, and crows are black.

Harriet Beecher Stowe used this name when she wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, and she had it mean any black person that didn't have a proper name. It was sort of like calling them "John Smith".

Because of that, the term then became applied to laws in the south which enforced racial segregation, keeping the "any man" black person away from the whites.

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