Segregation means keeping things or people apart. In United States history, it means the laws and customs that kept black people separate from white people. By 1804, all the northern states in the U.S. had ended slavery. It took the Civil War and the 13th Amendment to legally end slavery all over the United States. Segregation, however, lasted a lot longer.
After slavery ended in the U.S., groups of laws were passed to keep black people away from white people. They kept black people out of white schools, theaters, parks, pools, and neighborhoods. There were even separate cemeteries and jails for black people.
In 1875, Republicans tried to end racial segregation, but the Supreme Court overturned their civil rights law in 1883. In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation was still constitutional and that it applied even to mixed-race people, who had one white parent and one black parent.
Segregation in Schools
In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Brown v. Board of Education that segregation was unconstitutional. Still, black children were being harassed. It got so bad that in 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower deployed federal troops in Little Rock, Arkansas to make sure nine black students could enter the high school safely.
The Civil Rights Movement
The fight for equality included many incidents over the years, but one of the most famous was in 1955. Rosa Parks, a black woman in Montgomery, Alabama, refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. She was arrested. This inspired Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to organize and lead the bus protest in December that year, which kicked off the Civil Rights Movement in earnest. The Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964. It officially outlawed discrimination, but it was a long and slow process to undo centuries of beliefs and segregation.