O, Jim Crow's come to town, as you all must know,
An' he weel about, he turn about, he do jis so,
An' every time he weel about he jump Jim Crow.
The name "Jim Crow," meaning anything Negroid, was spawned by that awkwardly worded but catchy little song hit a hundred-odd years ago; today he stands for the segregation of white and colored races. To the Southern Negro, Jim Crow has meant, among other things, outmoded railway coaches, the rear rows of seats on trolleys and busses.
When , taffy-colored Arthur Wergs Mitchell, the only Negro Representative in Congress, purchased a first-class railroad fare from his home in Chicago to Hot Springs, Ark., he was familiar with the Arkansas law specifying "equal, but separate and sufficient accommodations" for both races. But when his Pullman reservation was refused at the Arkansas line, Arthur Mitchell swallowed his temper, declined a proffered rebate, obeyed the conductor's order to continue his journey in what he described as the "filthy and foul-smelling" Jim Crow coach up ahead.
Once back in Chicago, however, Congressman Mitchell wheeled around and turned around, jumped Jim Crow with a vengeance. The Illinois Central, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, and the Pullman Co. found themselves on the receiving end of a $50,000 suit. Further, he filed a complaint with ICC. Last week, four years and seven days after his ejection from the Pullman, the complaint was upheld by a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court, which made it plain that the railroads would have to provide equal accommodations for blacks and whites.
Southern rail operators expect to comply without too much difficulty. "Equal accommodations" in day coaches, said one spokesman, could be provided by movable partitions, as well as by the present method, and some similar arrangement might be worked out for Pullmans. The roads had been expecting this decision for some time. The rare Negroes who buy Pullman accommodations in the South are assigned "lower 13," a nonexistent berth, for that price have been given a drawing room, compartment, or bedroomwhichever was available.
Still languishing in the courts was Arthur Mitchell's suit for damages.