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During the era of slavery, most African Americans resided in the Southmainly in rural areas. Under these circumstances, segregation did not prove necessary as the boundaries between free citizens and people held in bondage remained clear.
Furthermore, Before the Civil War, segregation existed mainly in cities in both the North and the South. However, free people of color, located chiefly in cities and towns of the North and Upper Southexperienced segregation in various forms.
By the time the Supreme Court ruled in Dred Scott v. Sanford that African Americans were not U. When allowed into auditoriums and theaters, blacks occupied separate sections; they also attended segregated schools.
Most churches, too, were segregated.
Reconstruction after the Civil War posed serious challenges to white supremacy and segregation, especially in the South where most African Americans continued to live. The abolition of slavery infollowed by ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment extending citizenship and equal protection of the law to African Americans and In the years immediately after the Civil War segregation eased somewhat.
Yet the possibilities of blacks sharing public conveyances and public accommodations with whites increased during the period after Blacks obtained access to streetcars and railroads on an integrated basis.
Indeed, many transportation companies favored integration because they did not want to risk losing black business.
African Americans did gain admission to desegregated public accommodations, but racial segregation, or Jim Crow as it became popularly known, remained the custom. The term Jim Crow originated from the name of a character in an minstrel show, where whites performed in black face.
Passage by Congress of the Civil Rights Act ofwhich barred racial discrimination in public accommodations, provides evidence of the continued presence of segregation and the need to rectify it.
The law lasted untilwhen the Supreme Court of the United States declared the statute unconstitutional for regulating what the justices considered private companies, such as streetcars and entertainment facilities. By this time, the interracial Reconstruction governments had fallen in the South and the federal government had retreated from strong enforcement of black civil rights.
With white-controlled governments back in power, the situation of southern blacks gradually deteriorated. To maintain solidarity and remove possible political threats, white southerners initiated a series of efforts to reduce further African American citizenship rights and enforce Jim Crow.
By the s it had become entrenched.
These laws forced blacks to sit in the back of the bus, on separate cars in trains, and in the balcony at theaters, for example. From this period on, segregation became a rigid legal system separating the races from cradle to grave—including segregated hospital facilities, cemeteries, and everything in between—no longer tolerating any flexibility in the racial interactions that had previously existed.
Why did Jim Crow become entrenched in the s? The third-party Populist uprising of that decade threatened conservative Democratic rule in the South. Many of those blacks who could still vote, and the number was considerable, joined the Populist insurgency.
To check this political rebellion and prevent blacks from wielding the balance of power in close elections, southern Democrats appealed to white solidarity to defeat the Populists, whipped up anti-Negro sentiment, disfranchised African Americans, and imposed strict de jure by law segregation.
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In the North, while legislation combated segregation, African Americans were still kept separate and apart from whites. In contrast with the South, in the late s and early s, Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Michigan, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and New York all adopted laws that prohibited racial discrimination in public facilities.
Yet blacks encountered segregation in the North as well. Rather than through de jure segregation, most northern whites and blacks lived in separate neighborhoods and attended separate schools largely through de facto segregation.You have it all when you choose Rutgers—a major public research university with more than undergraduate majors and more than + graduate degree programs, a terrific location in the heart of the Northeast, and an international reputation .
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Steven F. Lawson was a Fellow at the National Humanities Center in He holds a Ph.D. in American History from Columbia University and is currently Professor of History at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.