What Are Examples of Segregation in America?

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One prominent example of racial segregation in the United States was the Jim Crow laws, a series of policies in effect from 1876 to 1965. Jim Crow laws segregated people of color from whites in housing, jobs, schools, public transportation, public spaces, military service, prisons and more.

Jim Crow laws emerged during the 1870s as part of Reconstruction following the Civil War. In an effort to ease tensions between Northern and Southern states, most politicians ceased efforts to help African Americans. Although blacks had been granted citizenship and the right to vote following the abolition of slavery, Jim Crow laws essentially nullified these rights, making blacks second-class citizens and mostly robbing them of the right to vote. Southern states enacted numerous exclusionary policies, including literacy tests, poll taxes and complex voter registration processes, intended to prevent blacks from voting.

Blacks attempted to challenge this institutionalized racism, but the pivotal decision handed down in the 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson determined that racially separate but supposedly equal facilities did not violate the constitution. In reality, nearly all facilities provided for blacks were anything but equal, and black citizens received inferior service and treatment. The landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 finally declared school segregation unconstitutional, while most of the remaining Jim Crow laws were overturned by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.