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Segregation - Yonkers, New York, Battles Segregation

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The act or process of separating a race, class, or ethnic group from a society's general population.

Segregation in the United States has been practiced, for the most part, on African Americans. Segregation by law, or de jure segregation, of African Americans was developed by state legislatures and local lawmaking bodies in southern states shortly after the Civil War. De facto segregation, or inadvertent segregation, continues to exist in varying degrees in both northern and southern states.

De facto segregation arises from social and economic factors and cannot be traced to official government action. For example, ZONING laws that forbid multifamily housing can have the effect of excluding all but the wealthiest persons from a particular community.

De jure segregation was instituted in the southern states in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The state legislatures in the

southern states accomplished de jure segregation by creating separate facilities, services, and areas for African Americans. Blacks were separated from the rest of society in virtually every facility, service, and circumstance, including schools, public drinking fountains, public lavatories, restaurants, theaters, hotels and motels, welfare services, hospitals, CEMETERIES, residences, military facilities, and all modes of transportation.

The quality of these facilities and services was invariably inferior to the facilities and services used by the rest of the communities. Laws in many states also prohibited miscegenation, or marriage between racially mixed couples. If an African American failed to observe segregation and used facilities reserved for white persons, she could be arrested and prosecuted.

In 1896 the U.S. Supreme Court gave explicit approval to segregation in PLESSY V. FERGUSON, 163 U.S. 537, 16 S. Ct. 1138, 41 L. Ed. 256 (1896). The High Court declared in Plessy that segregation did not violate the EQUAL PROTECTION CLAUSE of the U.S. Constitution's FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT if the separate facilities and services for African Americans were equal to the facilities and services for white persons. This SEPARATE-BUT-EQUAL doctrine survived until 1954.

That year, in BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION, 347 U.S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686, 98 L. Ed. 873 (1954), the Court reversed the Plessy decision. In Brown, the Court ruled that state-sponsored segregation did violate the guarantee of equal protection under the laws provided to all citizens in the Fourteenth Amendment. The Brown case concerned only the segregation of schools, but the Court's rationale was used throughout the 1950s to strike down all the remaining state and local segregation laws.

In the 1960s Congress took steps to curtail segregation in private life. The CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964 (42 U.S.C.A. § 2000a et seq.) forbade segregation in all privately owned public facilities subject to any form of federal control under the Interstate Commerce Clause in Article I, Section 8, Clause 3, of the U.S. Constitution. Facilities covered by the act included restaurants, hotels, retail stores, and recreational facilities. States began to follow suit by passing laws that prohibited discrimination in housing and employment. In 1968 the Supreme Court ruled that a seller or lessor of property could not refuse to sell or rent to a person based on that person's race or color (Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co., 392 U.S. 409, 88 S. Ct. 2186, 20 L. Ed. 2d 1189 [1968]).

In 1971 the Court held in SWANN V. CHARLOTTE-MECKLENBURG BOARD OF EDUCATION, 402 U.S. 1, 91 S. Ct. 1267, 28 L. Ed. 2d 554 (1971), that busing schoolchildren to different schools was an acceptable means of combating de facto segregation in schools. However, subsequent court decisions have rejected the forced INTEGRATION of predominantly white suburban school districts with largely black urban districts, and public education remains effectively segregated in many areas of the United States.

Segregation and Desegregation - Further Readings [next]

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