In the South race discussions centered exclusively around black-white relations. In a region hosting over ninety percent of the nation's African Americans and featuring a long history of racial slavery and discrimination, the "race problem" stayed constantly on people's minds. Whites and blacks, however, disagreed about what the nature of the "race problem" actually was. Most whites thought the problem was that blacks were trying to become too "uppity," too independent and free-thinking, in other words, too threatening to the status quo. On the other hand, most African Americans thought that the race problem was that, with whites in control of the government and economy, a darker skin color denied them opportunities their Constitution and the free market system supposedly guaranteed.
To understand race relations in the South in 1912, students have to consider the numerous complexities of Southern life and society, a task far too great for these web pages. Instead, these pages hope to introduce students to three pillars of Southern life in the early twentieth century: sharecropping, lynching, and Jim Crow laws. These three topics will help explain the economic system in place, the violence surrounding race relations, and the legal restrictions on African Americans' activities.