Segregation in the United States

Segregation in the United States

Segregation is the practice of requiring separate housing, education and other services for people of color. Segregation was made law several times in 18th and 19th-century America as some believed that Black and white people were incapable of coexisting.

In the lead-up to the liberation of enslaved people under the Thirteenth Amendment, abolitionists argued about what the fate of slaves should be once they were freed. One group argued for colonization, either by returning the formerly enslaved people to Africa or creating their own homeland. In 1862 President Abraham Lincoln recognized the ex-slave countries of Haiti and Liberia, hoping to open up channels for colonization, with Congress allocating $600,000 to help. While the colonization plan did not pan out, the country, instead, set forth on a path of legally mandated segregation.

Black Codes and Jim Crow

The first steps toward official segregation came in the form of “Black Codes.” These were laws passed throughout the South starting around 1865, that dictated most aspects of Black peoples’ lives, including where they could work and live. The codes also ensured Black people’s availability for cheap labor after slavery was abolished.

Segregation soon became official policy enforced by a series of Southern laws. Through so-called Jim Crow laws (named after a derogatory term for Blacks), legislators segregated everything from schools to residential areas to public parks to theaters to pools to cemeteries, asylums, jails and residential homes. There were separate waiting rooms for whites people and Black people in professional offices and, in 1915, Oklahoma became the first state to even segregate public phone booths.

Colleges were segregated and separate Black institutions like Howard University in Washington, D.C. and Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee were created to compensate. Virginia’s Hampton Institute was established in 1869 as a school for Black youth, but with white instructors teaching skills to relegate Black people in service positions to whites.

READ MORE: How the Black Codes Limited African American Progress After the Civil War

The Supreme Court and Segregation

In 1875 the outgoing Republican-controlled House and Senate passed a civil rights bill outlawing discrimination in schools, churches and public transportation. But the bill was barely enforced and was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1883.

In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that segregation was constitutional. The ruling established the idea of “separate but equal.” The case involved a mixed-race man who was forced to sit in the Black-designated train car under Louisiana’s Separate Car Act.

Housing Segregation

As part of the segregation movement, some cities instituted zoning laws that prohibited Black families from moving into white-dominant blocks. In 1917, as part of Buchanan v. Warley, the Supreme Court found such zoning to be unconstitutional because it interfered with property rights of owners.

Using loopholes in that ruling in the 1920s, Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover created a federal zoning committee to persuade local boards to pass rules preventing lower-income families from moving into middle-income neighborhoods, an effort that targeted Black families. Richmond, Virginia, decreed that people were barred from residency on any block where they could not legally marry the majority of residents. This invoked Virginia’s anti-mixed race marriage law and was not technically in violation with the Supreme Court decision.

Segregation During the Great Migration

During the Great Migration, a period between 1916 and 1970, six million African Americans left the South. Huge numbers moved northeast and reported discrimination and segregation similar to what they had experienced in the South.

As late as the 1940s, it was still possible to find “Whites Only” signs on businesses in the North. Segregated schools and neighborhoods existed, and even after World War II, Black activists reported hostile reactions when Black people attempted to move into white neighborhoods.






The Green Book: The Black Travelers’ Guide to Jim Crow America

Segregation and the Public Works Administration

The Public Works Administration’s efforts to build housing for people displaced during the Great Depression focused on homes for white families in white communities. Only a small portion of houses was built for Black families, and those were limited to segregated Black communities.

In some cities, previously integrated communities were torn down by the PWA and replaced by segregated projects. The reason given for the policy was that Black families would bring down property values.

Red-Lining

Starting in the 1930s, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board and the Home Owners' Loan Corporation conspired to create maps with marked areas considered bad risks for mortgages in a practice known as “red-lining.” The areas marked in red as “hazardous” typically outlined Black neighborhoods. This kind of mapping concentrated poverty as (mostly Black) residents in red-lined neighborhoods had no access or only very expensive access to loans.

READ MORE: How a New Deal Housing Program Enforced Segregation

The practice did not begin to end until the 1970s. Then, in 2008, a system of “reverse red-lining,” which extended credit on unfair terms with subprime loans, created a higher rate of foreclosure in Black neighborhoods during the housing crisis.

Housing Segregation

In 1948, the Supreme Court ruled that a Black family had the right to move into their newly-purchased home in a quiet neighborhood in St. Louis, despite a covenant dating back to 1911 that precluded the use of the property in the area by “any person not of the Caucasian race.” In Shelley v. Kramer, attorneys from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), led by Thurgood Marshall, argued that allowing such white-only real estate covenants were not only morally wrong, but strategically misguided in a time when the country was trying to promote a unified, anti-Soviet agenda under President Harry Truman. Civil rights activists saw the landmark case as an example of how to start to undue trappings of of segregation at the federal level.

But while the Supreme Court ruled that white-only covenants were not enforceable, the real estate playing field was hardly leveled. The Housing Act of 1949 was proposed by Truman to solve a housing shortage caused by soldiers returned from World War II. The act subsidized housing for whites only, even stipulating that Black families could not purchase the houses even on resale. The program effectively resulted in the government funding white flight from cities.

One of the most notorious of the white-only communities created by the Housing Act was Levittown, New York, built in 1949 and followed by other Levittowns in different locations.

Segregation in Schools

Segregation of children in public schools was struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional in 1954 with Brown v. Board of Education. The case was originally filed in Topeka, Kansas after seven-year-old Linda Brown was rejected from the all-white schools there.

A follow-up opinion handed decision-making to local courts, which allowed some districts to defy school desegregation. This led to a showdown in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower deployed federal troops to ensure nine Black students entered high school after Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus had called in the National Guard to block them.

When Rosa Parks was arrested in 1955 after refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama, the civil rights movement began in earnest. Through the efforts of organizers like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the resulting protests, the Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964, outlawing discrimination, though desegregation was a slow process, especially in schools.

READ MORE: How Dolls Helped Win Brown v. Board of Education

Boston Busing Crisis

One of the worst incidents of anti-integration happened in 1974. Violence broke out in Boston when, in order to solve the city’s school segregation problems, courts mandated a busing system that carried Black students from predominantly Roxbury to South Boston schools, and vice versa.

The state had passed the Elimination of Racial Balance law in 1965, but it had been held up in court by Irish Catholic opposition. Police protected the Black students as several days of violence broke out between police and Southie residents. White crowds greeted the buses with insults, and further violence erupted between Southie residents and retaliating Roxbury crowds. State troopers were called in until the violence subsided after a few weeks.

Segregation in the 21st Century

Segregation persists in the 21st Century. Studies show that while the public overwhelmingly supports integrated schools, only a third of Americans want federal government intervention to enforce it.

The term “apartheid schools” describes still-existing, largely segregated schools, where whites make up 0 to 10 percent of the student body. The phenomenon reflects residential segregation in cities and communities across the country, which is not created by overtly racial laws, but by local ordinances that target minorities disproportionately.

Sources

Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi, published by Bodley Head.
The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic.
Dismantling Desegregation by Gary Orfield and Susan E. Eaton by the New Press.


Racial Segregation in the U.S. Military

The War for Independence People of African descent have participated in every U.S. war. Indeed, black Revolutionaries served before the colonies became a nation, in the War for Independence. African-American slaves and freemen eventually served on both sides in that conflict. Some 5,000 black soldiers in both northern and southern colonies are estimated to have served shoulder to shoulder with white counterparts in the Continental Army. At least 20,000 blacks served with the British. Blacks served in northern militias at the outset, but were forbidden to in the South, because slavers feared the arming of slaves. Lord Dunmore, Royal Governor of Virginia, changed that by issuing an emancipation proclamation in November 1775, which granted freedom to runaways who would fight for the British. Sir Henry Clinton, British commander in New York, issued a similar edict in 1779. More than 100,000 slaves escaped to British lines, but probably only a thousand served with arms. Numerous others filled non-combat roles. More than half of the black soldiers in British forces died of Smallpox. Still more were driven out when food ran low. The majority were never granted freedom.* Owing to manpower shortages, General George Washington lifted a ban on black enlistment in the Continental Army in January 1776. All-black units were formed in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Many slaves served in their masters` stead. Another black unit arrived from Haiti with French forces. Black volunteers served with South Carolina guerrilla units -- including those of "Swamp Fox" Francis Marion -- sometimes comprising half of his troop strength. Black fighters carried on after many of their white counterparts were felled by malaria. The former were immune to that disease, however, thanks to sickle-shaped cells in their bloodstreams. The War of 1812 Owing to a chronic manpower shortage during the War of 1812, 25 percent of naval squadrons were manned by African-American recruits during the Battle of Lake Erie. However, a 1792 law prohibiting black enlistment in the army existed until 1862. Prominent 19th-century African Americans, including civil-rights leaders Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. DuBois, encouraged fellow blacks to enlist in the military to demonstrate bravery and loyalty, and raise their standing in American society. Mexican War During the Mexican War, many African-American soldiers served as officers` servants. Soldiers from the Louisiana Battalion of Free Men participated. African Americans also served on naval vessels. The Civil War Usually assigned to white-led, non-combat labor units, African-American soldiers nevertheless volunteered for combat and medical field duties. Freemen and runaways signed up on the Union side. More than 186,000 African Americans served, comprising 163 units. Many more served in the Union Navy. The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment became famous. One of its first black units, composed of freed black slaves from the Northern states, earned fame on July 18, 1863 in the Battle of Battery Wagner, a Confederate fort on an island near Charleston, South Carolina. Although an unsuccessful Union attack sustained heavy casualties, Company C managed to capture a section of the fort. Unit leader Colonel Robert Gould Shaw was killed. The sergeant bearing the colors also was hit, but Sergeant William H. Carney retrieved the flag. After being ordered to retreat, Carney bore the flag while facing heavy fire and led the remaining men to a parapet where he planted it before falling back. He was wounded twice, but survived to be the first black soldier to be presented the Medal of Honor (May 23, 1900). On the Confederate side, freemen and slaves served in labor gangs. Whether or not to arm them was subject to much debate. On March 13, 1865, the Confederate congress enacted a statute to allow African-American enlistment, but few were recruited. Indian Wars From the 1870s to 1900s, African-American units were deployed to fight Native Americans. The Congress had authorized creation of segregated African-American regiments for the postwar army, under the command of white officers**: the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments and the 38th through 41st Infantry Regiments. They were mainly stationed in the Southwest and Great Plains to construct forts and keep order on a frontier rife with outlaws and occupied by Native Americans battling land-grabbers. The black cavalry units were known as "Buffalo Soldiers". The troops were so called by the Cheyenne for their dark skin and hair, as well as battle ability. Eventually, the regiments merged into the 4th Cavalry Brigade, led by the Army`s first black general, Benjamin O. Davis Sr. The brigade existed for three years before all horse-cavalry regiments were disbanded. Thirteen enlistees and six officers from the four regiments earned the Medal of Honor during the Indian Wars. Buffalo Soldiers also served in non-combat roles. Spanish-American War Buffalo Soldiers also participated in the Spanish-American War and guarded the Mexican border. Both cavalry regiments fought on the island of Cuba, which included action on San Juan Hill. John J. Pershing versus Pancho Villa The 10th Cavalry Regiment served under J.J. Pershing against Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa in 1916. During that punitive expedition and the Philippine-American war, five more Medals of Honor were earned by African Americans. World War I African Americans remained segregated throughout this war. Many blacks still volunteered. More than 350,000 African Americans served in the American Expeditionary Force on the western front. Most black units were relegated to non-combat roles. However, the 369th Infantry "Hell Fighters from Harlem" served six months longer than any other unit. They won fame for bravery and competence in combat, being awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French allies. One hundred seventy-one soldiers earned Legion of Merit medals. The only Medal of Honor awarded to a black soldier was presented posthumously to Freddie Stowers of the 371st Infantry Regiment on April 24, 1991. World War II As World War II loomed, the U.S. opposed fascist regimes and their racist ideology, yet an estimated 10 percent of African-American citizens lacked basic civil rights and opportunities. However, two and a half-million black men registered for the draft. More than one million would serve in all branches, including 125,000 overseas. In addition, thousands of African-American women volunteered to become combat nurses. During [:Pearl Harbor] attack, one Doris Miller, a Navy mess attendant, manned and fired (untrained) an anti-aircraft gun at Japanese aircraft, which earned him the first Navy Cross of the attack. African-Americans put pressure on the U.S. government for racial equality in the armed forces. The NAACP, Urban League, and other organizations successfully appealed to the White House and military to integrate officer candidate schools and expand opportunities for black units. In a partial response, the government created an all-black military aviation program at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, but were criticized by African-Americans for continued segregation. Nevertheless, from 1942 to 1946 nearly 1,000 African-American fighter and bomber pilots trained at the segregated Tuskegee (Ala.) Army Air Field and 450 served overseas. In May 1943, Tuskegee-trained pilots were sent to North Africa to join the Allies. They were led by then Captain Benjamin O. Davis Jr. They flew more than 150,000 sorties over North Africa, the Mediterranean, and Europe. They escorted Allied bombers while destroying more than 250 enemy aircraft in the air and another 150 on the ground. Accomplishments by the 99th Fighter Squadron, especially in collaboration with the all-white 79th Fighter Group in October 1943, helped set the stage for the integration of the Air Force. The Tuskegee Airmen distinguished themselves by becoming the only fighter escort to never lose a bomber to enemy action. On March 29, 2007, the Tuskegee airmen received the Congressional Gold Medal at the Smithsonian Institution, the highest honor the Congress bestows upon civilians. Many Tuskegee vets made the trip to Washington, D.C. for the ceremony. President Bush and Secretary of State Powell contributed remarks. The president acknowledged the veterans for their service in the face of innumerable racial insults. The unit`s history remained largely unknown, but a 1995 movie, Tuskegee Airmen, did much to popularize their exploits. Near the war`s end (1944-45) the military began to experiment with integrated units to meet manpower shortages during the Battle of the Bulge. Eighty percent of white officers surveyed reported that black soldiers had performed "very well" in combat 69 percent saw no reason why African-American infantrymen should not perform as well with the same training and experience. The president acts In the States, however, racism persisted. When returning African-American vets became victims of violence in South Carolina and Georgia, President Harry S. Truman sent a package of civil-rights reforms to Congress, and as commander in chief, he ordered desegregation of the armed forces. By the end of the Korean War (1953), the military was nearly desegregated, including base schools and buses.

*Presently, descendants of black Loyalists live in Canada. **Exception: Henry O. Flipper.


Contents

Background Edit

The first African slaves were brought to America in 1619. [1] This was just nine years after British settlers created the first permanent settlement in America, at Jamestown, Virginia. [2]

Abolitionists started trying to make slavery illegal in the mid-1700s. [4] By 1804, all of the northern states had ended slavery. [4] However, none of the Southern states had. [4] The Southern states believed that slavery was their right, and they did not want to give it up. Cotton had become a very important crop in the South. Owners of large cotton plantations were used to having slaves to do work for free, which made the plantation owners richer because they did not have to pay anybody to work. [5] pp. 232–233

Eventually, the South tried to leave the United States. [5] p. 278 This caused the American Civil War. The North won, and in 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution made slavery illegal everywhere in the country. [6] In 1868 and 1870, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments gave African-Americans citizenship, and gave them the right to vote. [6]

Segregation continues in the South Edit

Losing the Civil War did not change people's ideas about African-American people. During slavery, slave owners had not seen slaves as humans. They saw them as property, things to buy and sell, like animals you would use on a farm. [2] After the War, many white people still did not see African-Americans as equal to whites.

Starting in 1890, the all-white legislatures in the Southern states began to pass state laws that required segregation. [7] These racist laws became known as Jim Crow laws. For example, blacks could not: [8]

  • Go to the same schools, restaurants, or hospitals as whites
  • Use the same bathrooms as whites, or drink from the same water fountains
  • Sit in front of whites on buses

In 1896, in a case called Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court ruled that these laws were legal. They said that segregation was fine, as long as things were "separate but equal." [9] In the South, everything was separate. However, places like black schools and libraries got much less money and were not as good as places for whites. [9] [10] [11] Things were separate, but not equal.

Segregation kept African-Americans from having the basic rights that the Founding Fathers had written into the Constitution of the United States. Law-makers, government officials, voting officials, and police officers were all white. This prevented African-Americans from having any say in their government being able to get the same voting rights as white people having police officers protect them or being able to get justice for crimes against them. Because they could not count on all-white police forces to protect them, violence against African-Americans, especially lynchings, increased. [11] Because African-Americans could not vote, they also could not serve on juries. [12] [13] This meant that if a black person was ever on trial for a crime, the jury would be all-white.

Across the United States Edit

Problems were worst in the South. However, African-Americans went through different kinds of segregation in other places. [14]

Across the United States, segregation in housing was a problem. Many African-Americans could not get mortgages to buy houses. Realtors would not sell black people houses in the suburbs, where white people lived. They also would not rent apartments in white areas. [15] Until the 1950s, the federal government did nothing about this. [15]

When he was elected in 1913, President Woodrow Wilson made government offices segregated. He believed that segregation was best for everyone. [16]

Black people fought in both World War I and World War II. However, the military was segregated black officers even had to enter some military bases through separate entrances from white officers. Black soldiers also were not given the same opportunities as white soldiers. Finally, in 1948, President Harry Truman de-segregated the military. [17]

Early activism Edit

African Americans tried to fight back against discrimination in many ways. Mostly, they tried to use the courts to get justice. For example, in 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was created. Its goal was to end race discrimination through lawsuits, education, and lobbying. [18]

However, eventually, many African Americans became frustrated and began to dislike the idea of using slow, legal strategies to achieve desegregation. Instead, African American activists decided to use a combination of protests, nonviolence, and civil disobedience. This is how the Civil Rights Movement of 1954-1968 began.

Civil Rights Movement Edit

From about 1954 to 1968, many African-American people – and white allies – fought to end racial segregation. The movement depended on non-violent protests, sit-ins, marches, civil disobedience, and lawsuits. Its victories included: [1]

  • Brown v. Board of Education (1954) which made segregation in schools illegal
  • The Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-1956), which ended all bus segregation in Alabama
  • Getting federal soldiers to de-segregate Little Rock Central High School for its first nine black students (1957)
  • Sit-ins (1958-1960), which de-segregated some stores, lunch counters, and other places throughout the country
  • Getting United States Soldiers to force the Mississippi Southern College and the University of Alabama to let in their first black students
  • De-segregating businesses in downtownBirmingham, Alabama
  • Getting the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights Act of 1968 passed. These federal laws made it illegal to discriminate against black people, keep them from voting, and keep them from having fair housing

These victories were not easy. Protesters were often threatened and attacked. Leaders' homes were bombed. [1] In Birmingham, the police attacked protesters, including children, with police dogs and fire hoses, then took them to jail. [19] In other cities, police beat protesters with clubs and fired into student protests. [1] Three of the movement's leaders – Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers – were murdered. [1]

Nobody knows exactly how many people were killed during the Civil Rights Movement. [20] However, at least 37 people were murdered, either because they were doing civil rights work, or because racist white groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens' Council wanted to terrorize black people. [a] [21] Twelve of these people were children or teenagers when they were murdered. [21]

Eventually, the Movement was successful in removing the laws that allowed segregation. However, attitudes are harder to change, and racism still exists in the United States.

A black man drinks from a "colored" drinking fountain in Oklahoma City (1939)

Sign at a housing project in Detroit (1942)

Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to sit behind a white person on a bus (1955)

A sign on a restaurant window in Lancaster, Ohio

U.S. Marshals protect 6-year-old Ruby Bridges, the only black child in a Louisiana school (1960)

In the early 1800s, the United States was growing farther into the South. White Americans wanted more land to plant cotton. However, many different Native American tribes lived in the lands the United States wanted to take over. [22]

Andrew Jackson was a big supporter of "Indian removal" – convincing or forcing Native Americans to leave the South and move west, outside of the United States. First as a Major General in the United States Army, and then as President, he led the United States' "Indian removal" program. [22]

Indian removal Edit

The program started in 1814, when Jackson led a group of soldiers who defeated the Creek Indians. He forced them to sign a treaty giving up over 20 million acres of their land to the United States. Over the next ten years, Jackson got nine other tribes to sign treaties giving up their land. [22]

In 1829, Jackson became President. That same year, gold was found in Georgia, which caused a gold rush. [23] This only made white people in the United States want control of the South even more. In 1830, Jackson passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830. [24] This law said Jackson could give land west of the Mississippi River to Indian tribes if they agreed to give up their lands in the South. The law promised the tribes that they could live on their new lands forever, and be protected by the United States government. [24] By the time his presidency ended in 1837, Jackson had gotten Native Americans to sign almost 70 treaties giving up their land. Almost 50,000 Native Americans moved to "Indian Territory" west of the Mississippi River. However, the government already had a plan to force them into a smaller area, in what is now eastern Oklahoma. [22]

The Trail of Tears Edit

The Cherokee Nation refused to leave their lands. They even got the United States Supreme Court to rule that they were sovereign and did not have to follow the laws of the United States. [25] Jackson simply ignored this ruling. In 1835, he got a small group of Cherokee to sign a treaty agreeing to leave their lands. [26] The rest of the Cherokee Nation tried to keep their lands. However, in 1838, the United States Army and the Georgia militia forced them to leave their lands. [27] On what is known as the "Trail of Tears," about 15,000 Cherokee were forced to walk over 2,000 miles to Oklahoma. [28] About 4,000 died along the way. [29] [30]

By the 1840s, except for a few Seminole Indians living in Florida, there were no Native Americans left in the American South. [22]

Reservations Edit

In 1851, the United States Congress passed a law that created Indian reservations in Oklahoma. [31] White settlers had already begun to move into the lands the Native Americans had been forced to move to. This was causing conflicts between whites and Native Americans. The goal of the reservations was to segregate the Native Americans from white settlers. [31]

In 1868, President Ulysses S. Grant decided to create more reservations, and force Native American tribes that lived in the west to move to them. [32] Along with segregating the Native Americans and clearing their land for white use, Grant planned to have church officials run the reservations so they could teach Christianity to the tribes. [33]

The power of the [federal] government over these remnants of a race [that was] once powerful . is necessary for their protection as well as to the safety of those among whom they [live].
– The Supreme Court, in U.S. v. Kagama [34]

Many tribes refused to leave their lands, and were forced onto reservations by the United States Army. If Native Americans left their reservations, the Army went after them to try to force them back onto the reservations. This led to massacres of Native Americans, and some wars.

In 1887, Congress passed the Dawes Act. [35] This law stopped giving land to whole tribes, and broke up the land into small pieces for individual families to use for farming. Indians who took the land, started living alone instead of with their tribes, and started farming were viewed as "civilized," and they were made United States citizens. [35] Indians who refused to segregate themselves even more on small pieces of land were not allowed to be citizens. Whatever land was left was sold to white settlers, which made the reservations even smaller. [35]

It was not until 1975 that the Supreme Court ruled that tribes are sovereign over tribal lands and members of the tribe. [36]

As of 2015, all of the Indian reservations in the United States, together, make up 87,800 square miles – an area about the size of Idaho. [37] However, Native Americans are now allowed to live or work anywhere they want to, and as of 2016, more than half have left the reservations. [37]


The Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated the United States

By Richard Rothstein

Racial segregation characterizes every metropolitan area in the United States and bears responsibility for our most serious social and economic problems — it corrupts our criminal justice system, exacerbates economic inequality, and produces large academic gaps between white and African American schoolchildren. We’ve taken no serious steps to desegregate neighborhoods, however, because we are hobbled by a national myth that residential segregation is de facto — the result of private discrimination or personal choices that do not violate constitutional rights. In truth, however, residential segregation was created by racially explicit and unconstitutional government policy in the mid-20th century, including the racially explicit federal subsidization of whites-only suburbs in which African Americans were prohibited from participating. Only after learning the history of these policies can we be prepared to undertake the national conversations necessary to remedy our unconstitutional racial landscape.

Such a national conversation is now possible. Without minimizing the terrible dangers of today’s resurgent white supremacist activity, we also should take hope from the reaction to it: a widespread willingness to confront, in many cases for the first time, the history of African American subjugation. Our previous failure, even refusal to do so, has impeded our ability to eliminate the racial caste conditions that permeate U.S. society.

Not to be underestimated is the wave of Confederate monument removals across the South, and the acknowledgement that these monuments were erected not after the Civil War to commemorate the misguided heroism of Confederate soldiers, but rather during the Jim Crow and post-Brown v. Board of Education eras, for the purpose of celebrating slavery and its residues in second-class citizenship. Who could have imagined, even a few years ago, that a white elected politician in the South, presiding over the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue, would proclaim that Confederate monuments celebrated a system “where hundreds of thousands of souls were bought, sold, and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of forced labor of misery, of rape, of torture.”

Speaking to his fellow citizens in New Orleans of how we mis-celebrate our history, Mayor Mitch Landrieu continued:

America was the place where nearly 4,000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana where the courts enshrined “separate but equal” where Freedom Riders coming to New Orleans were beaten to a bloody pulp. So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well, what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.

And it immediately begs the questions, why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives the pain, the sacrifice, the shame. . . all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans. So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission. There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it.

Recognition of historic wrongs is an essential predicate of the resolve to correct them. As another Southern white politician, Joseph Riley Jr., mayor of Charleston, South Carolina from 1975 to 2016, recently put it, only after we “acknowledge the burden so many were forced to bear, and set the table for a deeper inquiry into the past we all share, [can] we begin to heal the wounds of racial injustice, bridge the gulf that divides us still and come together at last around a common understanding of who we truly are as American people.”

My recent book, The Color of Law, has become relevant only because of this new willingness to confront the reality of our racial history — as a first step toward remedy. It tells a “forgotten history of how our government segregated America,” resulting in the concentration of African Americans in segregated neighborhoods in every metropolitan area of the nation, not only in the South, but in the North, Midwest, and West as well. The book explains that the Constitution requires knowledge of this history before we can enact policies to integrate our communities.

That’s because the Supreme Court has made a distinction between de facto and de jure segregation. De facto segregation is racial concentrations that result from private prejudice, discriminatory practices of rogue real estate agents, personal choices to live with same-race neighbors, or income differences that have kept low-income families from moving to middle-class communities. De jure segregation, in contrast, results not from private activity but from government law and policy that violated the Fifth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth amendments to the federal constitution.

The Supreme Court has said that if segregation is de facto, there is little we can do to correct it. What happened by accident can only be undone by accident. But if segregation has been created de jure, by government’s explicit racial policies, not only are we permitted to remedy it, we are required to do so.

We share a national myth that residential segregation is de facto. It is a myth embraced not only by conservatives, but by liberals as well. It is perpetuated by our standard high school history curriculum, in which commonly used textbooks routinely describe segregation in the North as de facto, mysteriously evolved without government direction. Yet, as The Color of Law recounts, the myth is false. Federal, state, and local governments deliberately segregated residential areas of every metropolitan area of the nation, designed to ensure that African Americans and whites would have to live separately.

For example, the federal government purposefully placed public housing in high-poverty, racially isolated neighborhoods to concentrate the black population. And it created a whites-only mortgage insurance program to shift the white population from urban neighborhoods to exclusively white suburbs. The Internal Revenue Service granted tax exemptions for charitable activity to organizations that openly enforced neighborhood racial homogeneity. Government-licensed realtors, with the open support of state regulators, enforced a “code of ethics” that prohibited the sale of homes to African Americans in white neighborhoods. In thousands of cases, police forces organized and supported mob violence to drive black families out of homes on the white side of racial boundaries. Federal and state regulators sanctioned the refusal of the banking, thrift, and insurance industries to make loans to homeowners in other-race communities.

By the time the federal government reversed its policy of subsidizing segregation in 1962, and by the time the Fair Housing Act banned private discrimination in 1968, the residential patterns of major metropolitan areas were set. White suburbs that had been affordable to the black working class in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s were now no longer so, both because of the increase in housing prices (and whites’ home equity) during that period, and because other federal policies had depressed black incomes while supporting those of whites. At the beginning of the New Deal the National Recovery Act established industrial wages at lower levels for industries where black workers predominated later, Social Security and Fair Labor Standards legislation excluded from coverage occupations in which African Americans predominated, for example, agriculture and domestic service. It was not until 1964 that the National Labor Relations Board for the first time refused to certify a union’s exclusive bargaining status because it openly refused to represent black workers.

Open housing demonstration in Seattle, October 20, 1963. Image: Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection.

I’ve summarized some of these policies on Terry Gross’s radio program, Fresh Air. But my articles and The Color of Law are not the only sources for correcting the de facto myth. Ta-Nehisi Coates, for example, in “The Case for Reparations” and other articles in The Atlantic, also tells part of this story. Several scholars have done the same.

We promote the myth of de facto segregation by mis-teaching our young people about our past. When I was researching The Color of Law, I examined high school history textbooks that were commonly in use during the early years of this decade, and was shocked by their mendacity in describing racial history. For example, in the more than 1,200 pages of the widely used high school textbook The Americans, a single paragraph was devoted to 20th-century “Discrimination in the North.” That paragraph included one sentence on residential segregation, stating that “African Americans found themselves forced into segregated neighborhoods,” with no further explanation of how this happened or how public policy was responsible.

Another widely used high school textbook, Pearson’s United States History, also attributed segregation to mysterious forces: “In the North, too, African Americans faced segregation and discrimination. Even where there were no explicit laws, de facto segregation, or segregation by unwritten custom or tradition, was a fact of life. African Americans in the North were denied housing in many neighborhoods.” The passive voice construction — “were denied” — is not just bad writing, it hides who exactly denied housing to African Americans.

The popular high school textbook History Alive! also teaches a distorted view by suggesting that segregation was only a problem in the South. “Even New Deal agencies,” it says, “practiced racial segregation, especially in the South,” failing to explain that the New Deal’s Public Works Administration initiated the nationwide civilian public housing program by demolishing integrated neighborhoods even in the North to build segregated projects in their place, or that the New Deal’s Federal Housing Administration denied loan guarantees to developers of suburbs wherever the danger of “infiltration” of “incompatible racial groups” was present.

Such indoctrination of today’s high school students minimizes the possibility of progress toward equality when these students become our country’s leaders. As New Orleans’ Mayor Landrieu put it, referring to the South’s glorification of Confederate leaders, “We justify our silence and inaction by manufacturing noble causes that marinate in historical denial.” This is equally true of the de facto myth we have manufactured about how our nation became segregated. The next generation will do no better a job than our generation has done of progressing toward a better future, unless we teach our young people a less-sanitized version of the past.

This article is part of the Zinn Education Project’s If We Knew Our History series.

© 2017 The Zinn Education Project, a project of Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change.

Richard Rothstein is a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and senior fellow of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at the University of California (Berkeley) School of Law. He is the author of numerous books including The Color of Law.

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Contents

Background

The first African slaves were brought to America in 1619. Ώ] This was just nine years after British settlers created the first permanent settlement in America, at Jamestown, Virginia. ΐ]

Abolitionists started trying to make slavery illegal in the mid-1700s. Β] By 1804, all of the northern states had ended slavery. Β] However, none of the Southern states had. Β] The Southern states believed that slavery was their right, and they did not want to give it up. Cotton had become a very important crop in the South. Owners of large cotton plantations were used to having slaves to do work for free, which made the plantation owners richer because they did not have to pay anybody to work. Γ] pp.𧇨–233

Eventually, the South tried to leave the United States. Γ] p.𧈖 This caused the American Civil War. The North won, and in 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution made slavery illegal everywhere in the country. Δ] In 1868 and 1870, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments gave African-Americans citizenship, and gave them the right to vote. Δ]

Segregation continues in the South

Losing the Civil War did not change people's ideas about African-American people. During slavery, slave owners had not seen slaves as humans. They saw them as property, things to buy and sell, like animals you would use on a farm. ΐ] After the War, many white people still did not see African-Americans as equal to whites.

Starting in 1890, the all-white legislatures in the Southern states began to pass state laws that required segregation. Ε] These racist laws became known as Jim Crow laws. For example, blacks could not: Ζ]

  • Go to the same schools, restaurants, or hospitals as whites
  • Use the same bathrooms as whites, or drink from the same water fountains
  • Sit in front of whites on buses

In 1896, in a case called Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court ruled that these laws were legal. They said that segregation was fine, as long as things were "separate but equal." Η] In the South, everything was separate. However, places like black schools and libraries got much less money and were not as good as places for whites. Η] ⎖] ⎗] Things were separate, but not equal.

Segregation kept African-Americans from having the basic rights that the Founding Fathers had written into the Constitution of the United States. Law-makers, government officials, voting officials, and police officers were all white. This prevented African-Americans from having any say in their government being able to get the same voting rights as white people having police officers protect them or being able to get justice for crimes against them. Because they could not count on all-white police forces to protect them, violence against African-Americans, especially lynchings, increased. ⎗] Because African-Americans could not vote, they also could not serve on juries. ⎘] ⎙] This meant that if a black person was ever on trial for a crime, the jury would be all-white.

Across the United States

Problems were worst in the South. However, African-Americans went through different kinds of segregation in other places. ⎚]

Across the United States, segregation in housing was a problem. Many African-Americans could not get mortgages to buy houses. Realtors would not sell black people houses in the suburbs, where white people lived. They also would not rent apartments in white areas. ⎛] Until the 1950s, the federal government did nothing about this. ⎛]

When he was elected in 1913, President Woodrow Wilson made government offices segregated. He believed that segregation was best for everyone. ⎜]

Black people fought in both World War I and World War II. However, the military was segregated black officers even had to enter some military bases through separate entrances from white officers. Black soldiers also were not given the same opportunities as white soldiers. Finally, in 1948, President Harry Truman de-segregated the military. ⎝]

Early activism

African Americans tried to fight back against discrimination in many ways. Mostly, they tried to use the courts to get justice. For example, in 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was created. Its goal was to end race discrimination through lawsuits, education, and lobbying. ⎞]

However, eventually, many African Americans became frustrated and began to dislike the idea of using slow, legal strategies to achieve desegregation. Instead, African American activists decided to use a combination of protests, nonviolence, and civil disobedience. This is how the Civil Rights Movement of 1954-1968 began.

Civil Rights Movement

From about 1954 to 1968, many African-American people – and white allies – fought to end racial segregation. The movement depended on non-violent protests, sit-ins, marches, civil disobedience, and lawsuits. Its victories included: Ώ]

  • Brown v. Board of Education (1954) which made segregation in schools illegal
  • The Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-1956), which ended all bus segregation in Alabama
  • Getting federal soldiers to de-segregate Little Rock Central High School for its first nine black students (1957)
  • Sit-ins (1958-1960), which de-segregated some stores, lunch counters, and other places throughout the country
  • Getting United States Soldiers to force the Mississippi Southern College and the University of Alabama to let in their first black students
  • De-segregating businesses in downtownBirmingham, Alabama
  • Getting the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights Act of 1968 passed. These federal laws made it illegal to discriminate against black people, keep them from voting, and keep them from having fair housing

These victories were not easy. Protesters were often threatened and attacked. Leaders' homes were bombed. Ώ] In Birmingham, the police attacked protesters, including children, with police dogs and fire hoses, then took them to jail. ⎟] In other cities, police beat protesters with clubs and fired into student protests. Ώ] Three of the movement's leaders – Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers – were murdered. Ώ]

Nobody knows exactly how many people were killed during the Civil Rights Movement. ⎠] However, at least 37 people were murdered, either because they were doing civil rights work, or because racist white groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens' Council wanted to terrorize black people. [a] ⎡] Twelve of these people were children or teenagers when they were murdered. ⎡]

Eventually, the Movement was successful in removing the laws that allowed segregation. However, attitudes are harder to change, and racism still exists in the United States.

A black man drinks from a "colored" drinking fountain in Oklahoma City (1939)

Sign at a housing project in Detroit (1942)

Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to sit behind a white person on a bus (1955)

A sign on a restaurant window in Lancaster, Ohio

U.S. Marshals protect 6-year-old Ruby Bridges, the only black child in a Louisiana school (1960)


History of Racial Segregation in The United States

Racial segregation in the United States, as a general term, included the racial segregation or hypersegregation of facilities, services, and opportunities such as housing, medical care, education, employment, and transportation along racial lines. The expression refers primarily to the legally or socially enforced separation of African Americans from other races, but can more loosely refer to voluntary separation, and also to separation of other racial or ethnic minorities from the majority mainstream society and communities.

Racial segregation in the United States has meant the physical separation and provision of separate facilities (especially during the Jim Crow era), but it can also refer to other manifestations of racial discrimination such as separation of roles within an institution, such as the United States Armed Forces up to the 1950s when black units were typically separated from white units but were led by white officers.

Racial segregation in the United States can be divided into de jure and de facto segregation. De jure segregation, sanctioned or enforced by force of law, was stopped by federal enforcement of a series of Supreme Court decisions after Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. The process of throwing off legal segregation in the United States lasted through much of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when civil rights demonstrations resulted in public opinion turning against enforced segregation. De facto segregation — segregation "in fact" — persists to varying degrees without sanction of law to the present day. The contemporary racial segregation seen in America in residential neighborhoods has been shaped by public policies, mortgage discrimination and redlining among other things.

Hypersegregation is a form of racial segregation that consists of the geographical grouping of racial groups. Most often, this occurs in cities where the residents of the inner city are African Americans and the suburbs surrounding this inner core are often white European American residents. The idea of hypersegregation gained credibility in 1989 due to the work of Douglas Massey and Nancy A. Denton and their studies of "American Apartheid" when whites created the black ghetto during the first half of the 20th century in order to isolate growing urban black populations by segregation among inner-city African-Americans.

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[. ] On the 2nd of July 1964, what is probably the most important law against discrimination ever voted in the United States was declared. The Civil Rights Act, implemented by President Johnson, officially affirmed that any form of discrimination, at school, at work, in the army, in public transportion and public places was forbidden. It was the beginning of the Affirmative Action, whose aim was to integrate blacks into professional world, by imposing quotas. Almost a year later, in July 1965, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, which allowed black people to vote in every state of America, without any condition. [. ]

[. ] Today, in the USA percent of the population is black percent of the people in prison are black percent of the people given the death sentence are black percent of the black people are#poor. The amount of deaths of black babies at birth is two times larger than whites'. Life expectancy is 6 years longer for white people. " This somehow shows that people aren't yet equal years after the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizen. [. ]

[. ] During the national anthem, they raised their hand, wearing a black glove, symbolizing the protest American blacks were fighting for. The black glove is the symbol of an organization called the Back Panthers, engaged against racism. After the incindent, they weren't allowed to run anymore in international competitions for having shown a politic sign. " Though King's fight changed some people's minds, a lot of people still think that it is normal for the blacks not to have the same rights as white people. [. ]

[. ] Sadly, racial segregation has a long history in the United States. The seperation between blacks and whites is deeply-rooted in American history because of its constitution, which established in 1787 that the weight of a black man was three-fifths of a white man. It also marked slavery as a constitutional fact. " Concretely, racial segregation touched colored people in as various fields as education, transports, employement and access to culture. It was based on the fact that black and white people didn't have the same rights. [. ]

[. ] The boycott lasted for 382 days, the situation becoming so tense that King's house was bombed. King was arrested during this campaign, which ended with a United States Supreme Court decision outlawing racial segregations on all public transport. ! In 1957, a group called SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) was created by Martin Luther King to lead non-violent protests in order to make black and white people equal. This year, he walked more than kilometers and gave 208 speeches all over the USA. [. ]


When Did Segregation Start and End?

Legal segregation began in 1896 when the Supreme Court sanctioned legal separation of the black and white races in the ruling H.A. Plessy v. J.H. Ferguson, but the decision was overruled in 1954. The Supreme Court in 1896 stated that separate but equal facilities did not violate the 14th Amendment however, it changed its mind thanks to the decision stemming from Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

After the United States abolished slavery, the country passed three new Constitutional amendments to give newly freed African Americans legal status. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery, while the 14th Amendment provided citizenship to the newly freed slaves. The 15th Amendment guaranteed the right to vote. However, the Supreme Court handed down a series of judgments and rulings that put blacks in a different category from whites by law. This made the African Americans second-class citizens. They were forced via private action to separate themselves from the white people in areas such as transportation, public accommodations, recreational facilities, prisons, schools and even the armed forces.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was formed in 1909. The NAACP began a struggle for the elimination of racial discrimination and segregation that was prevalent in the American life, which culminated in the Supreme Court's landmark decision in 1954.


Segregation in the United States - HISTORY

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The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom The Segregation Era (1900&ndash1939)

As segregation tightened and racial oppression escalated across the United States, some leaders of the African American community, often called the talented tenth, began to reject Booker T. Washington’s conciliatory approach. W. E. B. Du Bois and other black leaders channeled their activism by founding the Niagara Movement in 1905. Later, they joined white reformers in 1909 to form the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Early in its fight for equality, the NAACP used the federal courts to challenge disenfranchisement and residential segregation. Job opportunities were the primary focus of the National Urban League, which was established in 1910.

During the Great Migration (1910&ndash1920), African Americans by the thousands poured into industrial cities to find work and later to fill labor shortages created by World War I. Though they continued to face exclusion and discrimination in employment, as well as some segregation in schools and public accommodations, Northern black men faced fewer barriers to voting. As their numbers increased, their vote emerged as a crucial factor in elections. The war and migration bolstered a heightened self-confidence in African Americans that manifested in the New Negro Movement of the 1920s. Evoking the “New Negro,” the NAACP lobbied aggressively for a federal anti-lynching law.

In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal provided more federal support to African Americans than at any time since Reconstruction. Even so, New Deal legislation and policies continued to allow considerable discrimination. During the mid-thirties the NAACP launched a legal campaign against de jure (according to law) segregation, focusing on inequalities in public education. By 1936, the majority of black voters had abandoned their historic allegiance to the Republican Party and joined with labor unions, farmers, progressives, and ethnic minorities in assuring President Roosevelt’s landslide re-election. The election played a significant role in shifting the balance of power in the Democratic Party from its Southern bloc of white conservatives towards this new coalition.

NAACP Founder William English Walling

William English Walling (1877&ndash1936) was a prominent socialist and journalist. He was a founder of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, the Women’s Trade Union League, the Social Democratic League, and the NAACP. In 1908 he traveled to Springfield, Illinois, to investigate a recent race riot in which whites had targeted blacks. In his article, The Race War in the North, Walling declared: “the spirit of the abolitionists, of Lincoln and Lovejoy, must be revived and we must come to treat the negro on a plane of absolute political and social equality.” He appealed for a “large and powerful body of citizens to come to [blacks] aid.” The article aroused the conscience of Mary White Ovington, who wrote a letter to Walling offering her support.

Bookmark this item: //www.loc.gov/exhibits/civil-rights-act/segregation-era.html#obj317

NAACP Founder Mary White Ovington

Mary White Ovington (1865&ndash1951), a social worker and freelance writer, was a principal NAACP founder and officer for almost forty years. Born in Brooklyn, New York, into a wealthy abolitionist family, she became a socialist while a student at Radcliffe College. Ovington befriended W.E.B. Du Bois in 1904, when she was researching her first book, Half a Man (1911), about black Manhattan. In 1906 she covered the Niagara Movement and the Atlanta anti-black riot for the New York Evening Post. Ovington played a crucial role in the NAACP’s evolution. She recruited women into the ranks, mediated disputes, and guided the transition to black leadership. She served as secretary (1911&ndash1912), acting secretary, treasurer, and board chairman.

Mary White Ovington, ca. 1910. Reproduction. NAACP Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (318.00.00)

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The Founding of the NAACP

William English Walling’s (1877&ndash1936) exposé about a bloody race riot in Springfield, Illinois, Abraham Lincoln’s hometown and burial site, resulted in the assembly of an interracial group to discuss proposals for an organization that would advocate the civil and political rights of African Americans in January 1909. The group issued a “call” resulting in the first National Negro Conference held in New York on May 31 and June 1, 1909. At the second annual meeting on May 12, 1910, the Committee adopted the formal name of the organization&mdashthe National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The NAACP’s goals were the abolition of segregation, discrimination, disenfranchisement, and racial violence, particularly lynching.

Platform adopted by the National Negro Committee. Printed document, 1909. NAACP Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (019.00.00)

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The Pink Franklin Case

The NAACP undertook its first major legal case in 1910 by defending Pink Franklin, a black South Carolina sharecropper accused of murder. When Franklin did not show up for work after receiving an advance on his wages, a warrant was sworn for his arrest. Armed policemen arrived at Franklin’s cabin before dawn to serve the warrant and shots were fired, killing one officer. Franklin, who claimed self-defense, was convicted and sentenced to death. The NAACP interceded and Franklin’s sentence was commuted to life in prison. He was set free in 1919. In this letter, Albert Pillsbury, an attorney and NAACP founder, recommends an appeal to South Carolina Governor Martin F. Ansel.

Albert Pillsbury to NAACP Secretary Mary White Ovington, July 26, 1910. Typed letter. NAACP Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (021.00.00)


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