Editorial from Charleston News and Courier ("Trifles Before Evils"), regarding segregation laws, 17 February 1898

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The above editorial provides an opportunity to discuss how the laws of a governing body do not necessarily reflect the views of all the people.  In 1899 the Charleston Courier spoke out against the state legislature’s choice to pass a law that would separate travelers on the railroad by race.  This Jim Crow law was passed at the same time the legislature postponed a decision on a law to ban concealed weapons.  The editors of the paper express the opinion that placing priority on a racially motivated law that does nothing for “the general welfare for the state” over one aimed to protect citizens represents a misguided choice by the legislature.  The argument is not a clear or forceful criticism of segregation, but it does illustrate that the separation of the races did not go entirely unquestioned in South Carolina’s history.


“Trifles before Evils.” Charleston News and Courier.  17 February 1898.  Newspapers on Microfilm.  Published Materials Division.  South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.


“Trifles Before Evils”

After a long discussion at the night session on Tuesday the Senate rejected the motion to “indefinitely postpone” the Jim Crow car bill by a vote of 22 to 11, and passed the measure with some amendments designed to meet special contingencies.

At the same session Mr Aldrich’s bill “to prohibit the carrying of any pistol, “dirk, dagger, slingshot, razor, metal knuckles or other such deadly weapon, except openly on one’s premises or on the highway, and to prescribe a penalty,” came up for consideration, and on motion was “indefinitely postponed” by a vote which is not reported.

We think that most of the thoughtful people of the State will agree that the Senate did not choose judiciously between these two measures; that it would have acted more wisely, and with more promise for the good name and general welfare of the State, if it had indefinitely postponed the Jim Crow car bill and passed Mr Aldrich’s bill against concealed deadly weapons.

We have never had a Jim Crow car service on the railroads in the State, not even when the race prejudice was most violent – about twenty years ago – and there is no evidence anywhere that anybody has suffered material annoyance or inconvenience because the lack of such ser-vice.  We have had a concealed deadly weapon service in force for thirty-three years, or more, and the public records and grave yards are full of evidences of the evils it has wrought.  It has led to a number of murders and murderous assaults – perhaps not less than a score, as they are reported almost daily – while the Legislature has been in session.  It will certainly lead to hundreds more during the few months interval between this session and the next. 

In the view of the homicidal conditions that have so long existed in the state, and are still in force, all of which are notoriously mainly due to the general habit of carrying of deadly weapons, and in further view of the comparatively trifling consequence of not providing separate accommodations for persons of different race traveling on the same train.  It must be said that the Senate did not choose wisely between the two bills.  It should have rejected the one it passed, and should have passed the one it rejected.  And the Senators themselves will adopt that view, we think, on reflection. 

Correlating SC Social Studies Academic Standards:

Standard 3-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the major developments in South Carolina in the late nineteenth century and the twentieth century.

Indicator 3-5.2 Summarize the effects of the state and local laws that are commonly known as Jim Crow laws on African Americans in particular and on South Carolinians as a whole.

Indicator 3-5.4 Explain the impact and the causes of emigration from South Carolina and internal migration from the rural areas to the cities, including unemployment, poor sanitation and transportation services, and the lack of electricity and other modern conveniences in rural locations.

Standard 4-6: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the Civil War and its impact on America.

Indicator 4-6.1 Compare the industrial North and the agricultural South prior to the Civil War, including the specific nature of the economy of each region, the geographic characteristics and boundaries of each region, and the basic way of life in each region.

Indicator 4-6.6 Explain the impact of the Civil War on the nation, including its effects on the physical environment and on the people—soldiers, women, African Americans, and the civilian population of the nation as a whole.

Standard 5-1: The student will demonstrate an udnerstanding of Reconstruction and its impact on racial relations in the United States.

Indicator: 5-1.5 Explain the purpose and motivations behind the rise of discriminatory laws and groups and their effect on the rights and opportunities of African Americans in different regions of the United States.

Standard 8-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the American Civil War—its causes and effects and the major events that occurred during that time.

Indicator 8-3.1 Explain the importance of agriculture in antebellum South Carolina, including plantation life, slavery, and the impact of the cotton gin.

Standard 8-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the impact of Reconstruction on the people and government of South Carolina.

Indicator 8-4.1 Explain the purposes of Reconstruction with attention to the economic, social, political, and geographic problems facing the South, including reconstruction of towns, factories, farms, and transportation systems; the effects of emancipation; racial tension; tension between social classes; and disagreement over voting rights.

Standard 8-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of major social, political, and economic developments that took place inthe United States during the second half of the nineteenth century.

Indicator 8-5.1 Summarize the political, economic, and social conditions in South Carolina following the end of Reconstruction, including the leadership of Wade Hampton and the so-called Bourbons or Redeemers, agricultural depression and struggling industrial development, the impact of the temperance and suffrage movements, the development of the 1895 constitution, and the evolution of race relations and Jim Crow laws.

Standard USHC-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the westward movement and the resulting regional conflicts that took place in America in the nineteenth century.

Indicator USHC-3.1 Explain the impact and challenges of westward movement, including the major land acquisitions, people’s motivations for moving west, railroad construction, the displacement of Native Americans, and the its impact on   the developing American character.

Indicator USHC-3.3 Compare economic development in different regions of the country during the early nineteenth century, including agriculture in the South, industry and finance in the North, and the development of new resources in the West.

Standard USHC-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of major social, political, and economic developments that took place in the United States during the second half of the ninnteenth century.

Indicator USHC-5.5 Explain the causes and effects of urbanization in late nineteenth-century America, including the movement from farm to city, the continuation of the women’s suffrage movement, and the migration of African Americans to the North and the Midwest.


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