The Impact of Racist Ideologies: Jim Crow and the Nuremberg Laws

Contrary to common belief, Nazi Germany’s legal assault on the Jews between 1933 and 1945 was not unique in its racial character nor its segregationist aims. There are remarkable similarities between Americas own Jim Crow laws and those in Nazi Germany. 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. This exhibit will examine the Jim Crow laws — with examples from Houston’s segregationist past — and the Nuremberg laws.

The exhibit opens Aug. 5, 2011 and runs through July 22, 2012 in Holocaust Museum Houstons Central Gallery in the Morgan Family Center, 5401 Caroline St., in Houston’s Museum District.

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 Houstons 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.

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. For more information, call 713-942-8000 or e-mail exhibits@hmh.org.

August 5, 2011 - August 19, 2012

Central Gallery

Three Brothers Bakery
Marathon Oil Corporation

Special Thanks to