Segregation was legalized as a result of the previous factors that limited black people, the period of European enslavement and the subsequent Black Codes. Slavery was the kidnapping of Africans from their continent, stripping them of their identities, forcing them to submit to European control and abuse, and establishing a system where the African people were considered less than human. Slavery began in the United States in the 1600s. It was formally abolished in 1865 with the 13th Amendment to the Constitution (with the exception of those held in prisons). The Black Codes were a system of laws created by southern states to suppress black freedoms. They provided a way to establish control specifically over the black community that would limit their ability to utilize their granted freedoms in the United States. The Black Codes were created in 1865 after the end of the Civil War. Reconstruction removed the laws in 1866.
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Reconstruction was the process of rebuilding the destroyed South, assimilating black people into society, and trying to unify the Nation. Reconstruction was led under President Andrew Johnson. During the period Johnson pardoned all white Southerners that took an oath under the union. He allowed Southerners to rebuild their own governments. This resulted in many of the same people that disagreed with black freedom holding positions of power. The South’s formation made it easy for white people to limit black people in the workplace, with owning land, and with political participation. Some progression was still made in this time period largely due to the presence of radical republicans that fought for black rights through the Reconstruction Act. The 14th Amendment stated that people born in the United States would be granted citizenship and have equal protection under law and was passed in 1868. The 15th Amendment was also passed which granted all men, regardless of race, the right to vote in 1870. Reconstruction ended in 1877.
The Post-Reconstruction period is thought of as 1877-1900. Jim Crow laws were immediately introduced to the South after Reconstruction to support the separation of black and white people. Segregation was the process of establishing separate but equal which permitted separate but equal facilities for black and white people as long as they were equal. Segregation took form in schools, restaurants, trains, bathrooms, movie theaters, water fountains and a plethora of other places. How this worked was there would be a school for white children in a city as long as a school for black people. If there wasn’t a facility that was for your skin color, then the facility was not available for the individual to use. Often times the black facility was subpar compared to the white facility because black people were considered inferior by their white counterparts.
Segregation was challenged when a man named Homer Plessy questioned the limitations of the 14th Amendment. Plessy was an octoon man that could easily pass as being all white. After refusing to be transferred to a train car reserved for colored people, Plessy was arrested. He didn’t believe that the separation of black and white people was fair being as though black people specifically had worse treatment. His case was against the train company in Louisiana that abided to the state’s law requiring separate railroad cars for both blacks and whites. Plessy appealed to the state supreme court on the grounds that the issue violated the 13th and 14th Amendments. However in a 7-1 decision the court affirmed the Louisiana legislature. With that ruling, the Supreme Court established the legal separation of the races.
Segregation remained legal in the United States until ultimately being overturned by the Supreme Court Ruling: Brown vs. Board of Education. The unanimous decision affirmed that separate was inherently unequal and began the slow process of integration.
Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty! : an American History. New York :W.W. Norton & Company, 2014. Print.
US History Since 1877, Lecture, Dr. Reed. 8/30/18-9/13/18.
Legalizing Segregation in the United States. (2019, Jul 26).
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