Jim Crow Laws and Accounted Experiences

Prominent Baltimoreans share their personal accounts involving transportation, food, entertainment, and leisure during the Jim Crow era. In this module, personal narratives from both a local and national perspective are shared.

Tips for using this module in your classroom

Essential Question

What were some of the social, physical, and emotional effects of Jim Crow laws on everyday citizens? How were Jim Crow laws used during desegregation?


Documentary Clip 1

Discussion questions:
  • What do you think the term “legal segregation” means? How could it be legal?
  • What did the term “Jim Crow” mean? Who benefited most from Jim Crow laws?
  • Why would Mr. Louis S. Diggs not look police officers in the eye? What do you think the possible repercussions would be if he defied the law? Reflect on his statement, “done what society wants you to do.”
  • What was unique about the store in Dr. Patricia Welch’s neighborhood? Under what circumstances did she have access to the store?
  • Where were the "Whites Only" signs found? Why do you think they were only in those areas? Why weren't they needed in the entire city?
  • Why would students walk "quickly" through the neighborhood near Guilford? Who were these students? What emotions do you think the students were feeling?
  • Why did Dr. Walter Gill describe Maryland as the “South?” What historical connections are there to Maryland (i.e. the Mason Dixon line and other)?
  • In your opinion, is there a difference when prejudice is covert (hidden) versus overt (in your face)?

Documentary Clip 2

Discussion questions:
  • How was the army segregated in WWII? What were ways that Mr. Louis S. Diggs described segregation in the armed services? In your opinion, in what ways could these policies/practices potentially be described as “hypocritical”?
  • Why was Mr. Louis S. Diggs upset about not being able to get a hamburger? What was the real issue, beyond the hamburger? How did this mistreatment make him feel?
  • What does the term “deference” mean? In what ways were African Americans expected to show deference? Have you ever had to show respect to someone you felt like didn’t deserve it? What thoughts or feelings did you experience?
  • Why was Mr. Robert M. Bell embarrassed for his uncles when they were harassed? Have you ever seen someone you look up to unfairly treated?

Supplemental Enrichment Activites

Reflection 1
Discuss the quotes of the witnesses stating “knowing where you could or could not go” or “doing what society wanted.” How did Jim Crow laws have an impact on the communities being isolated? How did these laws evoke oppression amongst African American communities?
A collection of Jim Crow-related resources from the Library of Congress , includes a Teacher's Guide.

The landmark PBS four-part series The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow explores segregation from the end of the Civil War to the dawn of the modern civil rights movement.
Reflection 2
Dr. Patricia Welch describes how she didn’t know there was something wrong with segregation as a child. She assumed that was how life was supposed to be. As you’ve grown older, what are things that you have come to self-realize? How do you interpret life differently as an older student, versus a younger one?


  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.1 : Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively. (Grades 9/10)
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.1.C : Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions. (Grades 9/10)
  • D2.His.1.9-12 : Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by the unique circumstances of the time and place, as well as by broader historical contexts.
  • D2.His.4.9-12 : Analyze complex and interacting factors that influenced the perspective of people during different historical eras.