Racial segregation in the United States

Racial segregation in the United States is the segregation of facilities, services, and opportunities such as housing, medical care, education, employment, and transportation in the United States along racial lines. The term mainly refers to the legally or socially enforced separation of African Americans from whites, but it is also used with regard to the separation of other ethnic minorities from majority mainstream communities.[1] While mainly referring to the physical separation and provision of separate facilities, it can also refer to other manifestations such as prohibitions against interracial marriage (enforced with anti-miscegenation laws), and the separation of roles within an institution. Notably, in the United States Armed Forces up until 1948, black units were typically separated from white units but were nevertheless still led by white officers.[2]

"We Cater to White Trade Only" sign on a restaurant window in Lancaster, Ohio in 1938. Ohio, like most of the North and West did not have de jure statutory enforced segregation (Jim Crow laws), but in many places still had social segregation (de facto) in the early 20th century.[3]

Sign for "colored" waiting room at a Greyhound bus terminal in Rome, Georgia, 1943. Throughout the South there were Jim Crow laws creating "de jure" legally required segregation

Signs were used to indicate where African Americans could legally walk, talk, drink, rest, or eat.[4] Segregated facilities extended from white-only schools to white-only graveyards.[5] The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), so long as "separate but equal" facilities were provided, a requirement that was rarely met in practice.[6] The doctrine's applicability to public schools was unanimously overturned in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) by the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren. In the following years the Warren Court further ruled against racial segregation in several landmark cases including Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States (1964), which helped bring an end to the Jim Crow laws.[7][8][9][10]

Racial segregation follows two forms. De jure segregation mandated the separation of races by law, and was the form imposed by slave codes before the Civil War and by Black Codes and Jim Crow laws following the war. De jure segregation was outlawed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.[11] In specific areas, however, segregation was barred earlier by the Warren Court in decisions such as the Brown v. Board of Education decision that overturned school segregation in the United States. De facto segregation, or segregation "in fact", is that which exists without sanction of the law. De facto segregation continues today in areas such as residential segregation and school segregation because of both contemporary behavior and the historical legacy of de jure segregation.[12]