New Exhibition Examines Impact of Racially Based Laws

HOUSTON, TX (July 14, 2011) – Contrary to common belief, Nazi Germany’s legal assault on the Jews between 1933 and 1945 was not unique in its racial character nor in its segregationist aims. In fact, a new exhibit opening Aug. 5, 2011 at Holocaust Museum Houston examines the remarkable similarities between America’s own Jim Crow laws and those in Nazi Germany that ultimately contributed to the Holocaust.

 Jim Crow

Left: In April 1933, the Nazis organized a boycott of German Jewish businesses. This woman is reading a sign that explains the Nazi point of view. (Credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration, College Park)

Right: Due to the Jim Crow Laws, two patrons were forced to use a separate entrance to shop at this downtown department store in Birmingham, Alabama. Photographer Gordon Parks captured this image on assignment for Life magazine in 1956. (© The Gordon Parks Foundation)

As with many Nazi attacks against the Jews, the Nazis took ideas and practices that were common in their own and other cultures and radicalized them to suit their needs. “The Impact of Racist Ideologies: Jim Crow and the Nuremberg Laws” will explore those Nuremberg Laws in the context of the so-called Jim Crow laws, using examples from Houston’s own segregationist past.

The exhibit opens Aug. 5, 2011 and runs through July 22, 2012 in Holocaust Museum Houston’s Central Gallery in the Morgan Family Center, 5401 Caroline St., in Houston’s Museum District. The public is invited to a free preview reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011. Admission is free, but advance registration is required for this reception. Visit http://www.hmh.org/RegisterEvent.aspx to RSVP online.

Custom and law are closely linked systems that affect how people act toward each other. In both the post-Civil War United States and in Nazi Germany, the freedoms and rights of some groups of people were limited. Each country developed a system of racially based laws influenced by past customs and beliefs. These systems would dramatically shape history.

Under each system, groups were targeted. They lost important political, economic and social rights. African Americans were the primary target under the U.S. system of Jim Crow laws, named after a song-and-dance caricature of African Americans performed by a white actor. In contrast, Jewish people were the primary target under the Nuremberg Laws of Nazi Germany.

These laws, based on racial privilege, led to violence in both countries. Jim Crow laws varied widely across regions in the United States. Therefore, violent actions tended to be localized. The Nuremberg Laws were national in scope, laying the groundwork for the murder of more than two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe.

Using images and first-person accounts, this exhibition permits visitors to consider the Jim Crow and Nuremberg laws and to examine their effects on daily life. Incorporating Houston’s history with Jim Crow and the civil rights movement, the exhibition invites visitors to think about the impact of the laws of Jim Crow and Nuremberg – both at the time of their implementation – and today. Ultimately, the exhibit challenges guests to consider what each individual must do to lessen the impact of racist ideologies. 

The exhibit explores the history of racism and eugenics, past separate-but-equal doctrines and how racially based laws were used to define individuals and to restrict marriage rights, school privileges and other opportunities.

Presentation of “The Impact of Racist Ideologies: Jim Crow and the Nuremberg Laws” at Holocaust Museum Houston has been made possible by Baker Botts, LLP; Frost; H-E-B; Marathon Oil Corporation and the Morgan Family Foundation. The exhibition is presented with special thanks to United Airlines, official airline of Holocaust Museum Houston.

Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, the Museum teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.

Holocaust Museum Houston’s Morgan Family Center is free and open to the public and is located in Houston’s Museum District at 5401 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004. For more information about the Museum, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org.

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