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During the post-Civil War Reconstruction era through the Civil Rights era, social relations in Columbia (and the South in general) were based on issues of entitlement, cultural citizenship and structural violence.
Racist stereotypes of African American Southerners permeated American culture during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The level to which racism was ingrained within the United States is evident through the material culture of that era, including this ca.-1910 postcard (below) taken from an accordion-style souvenir folder containing twenty-two “Typical Scenes of the Sunny South.”
Inequalities in access to goods and services [commodities], a lack of mutual respect between blacks and whites, and physical segregation on levels large and small resulted in a new form of regional segregation known as Jim Crow during the late 1800s. Signed into law, this approach to maintaining social inequality came hand-in-hand with the advent of a national culture of consumption established through mass production and advertising, and a growing middle-class African American population.
Erected during the 1870s or 1880s, this building (below) contained repair shops for shoes and furniture before becoming John L. Simons’ (b. 1859) grocery in 1903. In 1905, his brother Charles (1865-1933) and sister-in-law Amanda (d. 1960) assumed control of the store. In 1913, they installed the family’s first documented telephone here, which had the number 1222. In the 1940s, Amanda, by then a widow, rented the property to small business owners.
Image courtesy of Columbia Housing Authority
One major way in which some African Americans, including Mann-Simons family members, sought to overcome such adversity was by engaging in diversified business activities made possible by national consumerism. The family took advantage of these newly-created opportunities and challenged Jim Crow by owning property, running small businesses like this grocery store and amassing greater material possessions.
For a more thorough exploration of this topic, click here.
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