Although there were common laws that could be expected everywhere, many counties or towns also had their own rules. Some restricted any person of color from entering their community, while others were more lenient. It was necessary to educate yourself to the acceptable local practices.
In some places black individuals were not allowed to enter local stores. Other communities permitted them to shop with the understanding that white customers were served first and had priority in the selection of goods. However, the prices and conditions of all sales were at the discretion of the proprietor.
As a result, black community stores sprang up in many towns. They sold goods procured from formal suppliers that were sometimes over-priced, inferior, or available only because they could not be sold to the white community. But more important, these stores helped the local black families. They provided a place to sell home canned goods, hand-crafted items, and produce from their farms.
Within the black community it helped to develop their own fair and independent economic network. As a result, other black-owned businesses were also established including barbers, banks, doctors, dentists, carpenters, and restaurants. These stores and businesses provided items needed for daily life that were frequently withheld and were an alternative means of employment.
In Silent Ties, Mr. Jefferson’s store fulfills that purpose. Miss Ada helps the family by offering her goods to others in the community. These places brought people together in mutual support of one another, and provided the means to meet life’s needs.
For more information I invite you to read the individual stories in Remembering Jim Crow, edited by William H. Chafe, Raymond Gavins, Robert Korstad and the staff of the Behind the Veil Project.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Santayana