Growing Up Jim Crow: How Black and White Southern Children Learned Race by Jennifer Ritterhouse (review)

Growing Up Jim Crow by Jennifer Ritterhouse (University of North Carolina Press, 2006)

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Growing Up Jim Crow: How Black and White Southern Children Learned Race by Jennifer Ritterhouse (review)

by Clara Silverstein
Southern Cultures, Vol. 15, No. 1: Spring 2009

University of North Carolina Press, 2006

Making its Broadway debut in 1949, the musical South Pacific slipped in this pointed tune about racism to temper “Happy Talk” and “Some Enchanted Evening.” Though Rodgers and Hammerstein set their musical on a tropical island during wartime, they understood all too well the American formula for perpetuating prejudice. Exactly how children are “carefully taught” is at the heart of Jennifer Ritterhouse’s Growing Up Jim Crow. Another verse from the song gives a simple answer: “You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late/ before you are six or seven or eight/ to hate all the people your relatives hate.”