PHILADELPHIA — I don’t have a clear memory of when my father went down to Mississippi in 1967.

I was 5 years old, and my focus was on my upcoming kindergarten graduation. I only knew that Daddy had taken a trip to a place that was farther south than where I’d been born, in Baltimore, and that he wouldn’t be back in time for my party. I remember receiving a telegram from him (for you Gen Z’ers, it’s like an Instagram but on a piece of paper) congratulating me on the academic achievement and sending a hug.

My mother had just given birth to my brother Jon a month before, and she didn’t really have much time to explain what Ted Flowers was doing in that faraway place called Jackson.

Years later, I found out. In fact, it wasn’t until my father’s death in 1982 at the age of 43 that I discovered the true story of his trip below the Mason Dixon line. While alive, he hadn’t really given very many details about what had happened and limited any references to vague comments about “helping people vote” and defending some folks in jail.

But after his death, I discovered a treasure trove of papers, typed on diaphanous yellow onionskin — his attempt at a memoir. He never got the chance to finish it.

But what was there was revelatory and provided a complete picture of what my father had confronted in Mississippi.

That included a run-in with judges who harbored suspicion bordering on hatred for Yankee lawyers, being called “white n----r” by schoolchildren on the steps of a courthouse, being spat at by old women and a near-miss with the Ku Klux Klan on the way back to his hotel room.

Those insubstantial pieces of paper told the profoundly substantial story of a man who confronted Jim Crow personally. I am a different person for knowing the kind of man my father was. A better one, I hope.

But knowing all that also made me shake with rage when President Joe Biden came here Tuesday and called Pennsylvania a “Jim Crow” state. Standing at the podium at the Constitution Center this week, the president of the United States said this: “We’re facing the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War. That’s not hyperbole, since the Civil War.”

To cheers from his supporters, he added, “The 21st century Jim Crow assault is real. It’s unrelenting, and we’re going to challenge it vigorously.”

More applause. And to my ears, it sounded obscene.

Because anyone who tries to equate the voting reforms that the Pennsylvania legislature tried to implement in our state to the Jim Crow era is either a fool or worse: a demagogue. I tend to suspect the latter.

No Pennsylvania voter is facing a fire hose on his way to cast a ballot. No voter this century has been shot at approaching our polling places. There are no flaming crosses along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, no barking dogs blocking the entrance to the polls.

The package of laws the state legislature passed, which was vetoed by a governor whose lack of critical thinking is only surpassed by his desperate need to be loved by the far left, included the following:

n Moving up both the voter registration deadline and the deadline to apply for a mail-in ballot.

n Allowing counties to start pre-canvassing mail-in ballots five days before the election instead of on Election Day.

n Mandating that all people who vote in person present ID.

n Setting limits on the use of drop boxes for the return of mail-in ballots.

How is this “Jim Crow 2.0”? How is this even controversial? None of these common-sense measures would prevent any citizen from voting. In fact, some of the GOP reforms would make it easier to vote.

But Tom Wolf saw the flames of burning crosses in the distance. State Democrats felt the harsh flood of fire hoses on their faces.

And Joe Biden, who as a young senator had a problem with forced desegregation, now sees the grizzled head of Jim Crow rising up before us, threatening to turn Philadelphia, Pa., 2021 into Philadelphia, Mississippi, circa 1961.

Those of us who never experienced Jim Crow might just fall for the theatrics. But those of us who have some idea of what it was really like to risk your life to cast your vote, even those who only read about it in the faded pages of a family memento, are aware of the offensive charade.

Beyond awareness, we are outraged that the president of the United States is playing the race card at a time when he should be attempting to unite his troubled nation.

And the greatest irony, and tragedy? That he came to Philadelphia, the cradle of liberty, to flip that first card.

Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer and columnist who splits her time between Philadelphia and Delaware County and her heart between her two black labs, Chance and Sophie. She wrote this for Delaware Valley Journal.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1


Recommended for you

(3) comments


Great article. The Biden admin. does not want to take the time to read these bills state by state. It's a joke. It's hate speech. And it's wrong. Comparing it to Jim Crow isn't laughable. It's tragic. Biden, the great uniting a massive failure. I regret voting for this fraud every day. I credit the here in NY, cleaning up this voting mess. No one is saying anything but let's make it easy...and SAFE. One would think we don't need to count votes at 4 in the morning...or require ID or a signature which you need too: rent a car, buy alcohol, apply for a loan, etc. etc. etc...I can't see any reasonably intelligent human who can't see through this poppy.

She's back

Like Christine Flowers I was young during the summer of sixty seven /sixty eight. I was ten, and attending a mostly black elementary school in the very New England state Connecticut. The sprawling hood in which we lived was a great mix of all kinds of ethnicities, who only had only thing in common we all were families who were pretty poor. I learned a lot in that school including a lot of black history. So the uprisings that occurred in that northern city (as they did in Philadelphia) did not surprise me. Perhaps Ms. Flowers was too young, too rich or too "privileged" to remember those. But AS an Adult she should have been taught something about them., particularly what lead up to them . As a young white Girl who somehow managed to land scholarships to very expensive "prep" schools and later college I did realize that the very virtue of my Whiteness did allow me to avoid the cycle of poverty that faced most of my childhood classmates and friends. It is Sad that this famous columnist did not inherit her father's sense of commitment to Social Justice.

FOR ANYONE who can fool themselves into thinking that Pennsylvania had no history of Jim Crow or racism I suggest they do some research. Maybe start by watching this film :


hermit thrush

None of these common-sense measures would prevent any citizen from voting. In fact, some of the GOP reforms would make it easier to vote.

just an incredible sentence that gives away the game. the point of the gop's voting measures is to make it overall harder to vote, not impossible. that's where the comparison to jim crow comes from. it is true that what the republicans are trying to do now is not as bad as jim crow, but there's a resemblance!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.