In her 2020 masterpiece, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, Isabel Wilkerson explains limiting employment opportunities for all people of color to domestic service or farm work. Wilkerson adds that throughout the Jim Crow regime, African Americans, like Jews in Nazi Germany, were prohibited by law from walking on the sidewalk. They were compelled by the force of law to walk in the gutter, ensuring uninhibited movement of White bodies, purity of White space, and the reinforcement of the idea of the inferiority of Blackness. Along with segregation of jobs and public spaces, Jim Crow carved out pure White housing space.
At age eighteen in 1883, Martha navigated Jim Crow South Carolina as Christian White nationalist paramilitary groups, such as the Red Shirts, rose around her and partnered with the Daughters of the Republic to reclaim southern territory for White rule. That year, the US Supreme Court ruled that housing markets were exempt from the provisions of the Civil RIghts Act of 1866, which prevented discrimination. Banks and realtors drew red lines on maps marking the boundaries of Black and Brown communities. They made a pact to not sell homes to people of color outside those red boundaries of Black existence. This practice – called “redlining” – was declared constitutional and was enforced throughout the South and the entire United States for the next century.
From “Fortune: How Race Broke My Family and the World–and How to Repair It All” by Lisa Sharon Harper