Jim Crow laws were a series of ordinances and statues in American communities intended to keep white people and black people segregated, according to Ferris State University. These "laws" were in effect from 1877 to the 1960s, primarily in the U.S. South and bordering states. Regulations were established to separate the races when it came to education, voting, prisons, the legal system, and even infamously when drinking from public water fountains or using other public facilities.
Although the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution gave African Americans protections and rights as equal citizens, such rights were often not recognized after 1877, states Ferris State University. In a landmark Supreme court decision in 1896 in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, the justices decided that as long as states respected the legal freedoms for blacks, they could establish regulations that treated blacks as separate but equal.
Plessy became the legal justification for laws that, in practice, rendered African Americans second-class citizens, with little or no access to educational, legal, social and employment opportunities that whites had access to. Jim Crow laws also eventually helped solidify a social caste system in which African Americans were continued to be perceived as inferior to white people in almost every respect.