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Segregation in the United States

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Segregation in the United States

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Racial segregation in the United States, as a general term, included the racial segregation or hypersegregation of facilities, services, and opportunities such as housing, medical care, education, employment, and transportation along racial lines. The expression is most often used regarding the legally or socially enforced separation of African Americans from other races, but is also used regarding the separation of other minorities from the majority mainstream communities.

Racial segregation in the United States has meant the physical separation and provision of separate facilities (especially during the Jim Crow era), but it can also refer to other manifestations of racial discrimination such as separation of roles within an institution, such as the United States Armed Forces up to the 1950s when black units were typically separated from white units but were led by white officers.

Racial segregation in the United States can be divided into de jure and de facto segregation. De jure segregation, sanctioned or enforced by force of law, was stopped by federal enforcement of a series of Supreme Court decisions after Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. The process of throwing off legal segregation in the United States lasted through much of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when civil rights demonstrations resulted in public opinion turning against enforced segregation. De facto segregation — segregation "in fact" — persists to varying degrees without sanction of law to the present day. The contemporary racial segregation seen in the United States in residential neighborhoods has been shaped by public policies, mortgage discrimination and redlining among other things.

Hypersegregation is a form of racial segregation that consists of the geographical grouping of racial groups. Most often, this occurs in cities where the residents of the inner city are African Americans and the suburbs surrounding this inner core are often white European American residents.[1] The idea of hypersegregation gained credibility in 1989 due to the work of Douglas Massey and Nancy A. Denton and their studies of "American Apartheid" when whites created the black ghetto during the first half of the 20th century in order to isolate growing urban black populations by segregation among inner-city African-Americans.[2]


After Congress passed the Reconstruction Act of 1867, the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1870 providing the right to vote, and the Civil Rights Act of 1875 forbidding racial segregation in accommodations, Federal occupation troops in the South assured blacks the right to vote and to elect their own political leaders. The Reconstruction amendments asserted the supremacy of the national state and the formal equality under the law of everyone within it.[4] However this radical Reconstruction era would collapse because of multidimensional racialism related to the spread of democratic idealism (progressivism). What began as region wide passage of ‘Jim Crow’ segregation laws that focused on issues of equal access to public activities and facilities would by 1910 have spread throughout the south, mandating the segregation of whites and blacks in the public sphere.[5]:117

The collapse of the reconstruction amendments and what alluded to racial segregation was also a political move that emerged in the Southern states. Many of the white voters in the south were farmers and opposed to the black man voting for racial reasons, and also because they objected to the possibility of their vote being employed against them.[6] This was during a time of agrarian unrest and the uncertainty of the political importance of the agricultural sector of the south. Independent challenges to the Democrat power remained endemic in the South until the end of the 19th century.[4] To discourage black voting, Southern Democrats resorted to violence. The white supremacist group Ku Klux Klan terrorized black political leaders to counter the Republican party's power base. Many blacks were killed (often lynched) for attempting to exercise their right to vote, for being members of political organizations and for attending school. Racialism was also fueled by the ideology of Social Darwinism, which broadly asserted that because of a natural competition among humans and the social evolution driven by the survival of the fittest, the white man not only should but deserved to retain political and economic power. Thus the behavior exhibited towards Negros was not perceived as racism but rather action that was sanctioned by the ‘science’ of Euro-centric racialism.[5]:118

The efforts to disenfranchise black men in the south were at first performed while trying not to directly violate the intent of the Fifteenth Amendment.[6] Such efforts included implementing poll taxes and property qualifications, which were directly aimed at discouraging the black voter but did not technically deny the right to vote based on color.[5]:105–123

After the Compromise of 1877, all federal troops were withdrawn from the South and Reconstruction ended, which also marked the onset of the nadir of American race relations, when African-Americans both in the South and the North were increasingly oppressed by white mob violence and by de jure and de facto segregation.

Separate but equal

The legitimacy of laws requiring segregation of blacks was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537. The Supreme Court sustained the constitutionality of a Louisiana statute that required railroad companies to provide "equal but separate" accommodations for white and black passengers and prohibited whites and blacks from using railroad cars that were not assigned to their race.[8]

Plessy thus allowed segregation, which became standard throughout the southern United States, and represented the institutionalization of the Jim Crow period. Everyone, theoretically, would receive the same public services (schools, hospitals, prisons, etc.), but that there would be separate distinct facilities for each race. In practice, the services and facilities reserved for African-Americans were almost always of lower quality than those reserved for whites; for example, most African-American schools received less public funding per student than nearby white schools. Segregation was never mandated by law in the northern states, but a "de facto" system grew up for schools, in which nearly all black students attended schools that were nearly all-black. In the South, white schools had no black pupils or teachers, while the black schools had black teachers and no white students.

Some streetcar companies did not segregate voluntarily. It took 15 years for the government to break down their resistance.[9]

On at least six separate occasions, spanning a time period of nearly 60 years, the United States Supreme Court held, either explicitly or by necessary implication, that the “separate but equal” rule announced in Plessy was the correct rule of law,[10] although, toward the end of that time period, the Court began to focus on whether the separate facilities were in fact equal.

The repeal of "separate but equal" laws was a key focus of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. In Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), the Supreme Court outlawed segregated public education facilities for blacks and whites at the state level. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended all state and local laws requiring segregation.


In an often-cited 1988 study, Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton compiled 20 existing segregation measures and reduced them to five dimensions of residential segregation.[11] Dudley L. Poston, Michael Micklin argue that Massey and Denton "brought conceptual clarity to the theory of segregation measurement by identifying five dimensions."[12]

African Americans are considered to be racially segregated because of all five dimensions of segregation being applied to them within these inner cities across America. These five dimensions are evenness, clustering, exposure, centralization and concentration.[13]

Evenness is the difference between the percentage of a minority in a particular part of a city, compared to the city as a whole. Exposure is the likelihood that a minority and a majority party will come in contact with one another. This dimension shows the exposure to other diversity groups while sharing the same neighborhoods. Clustering is the gathering of different minority groups into one certain space; clustering often leads to one big ghetto and the formation of hyperghettoization. Centralization is the number of people within a minority group that is located in the middle of an urban area, often looked at as a percentage of a minority group living in the middle of a city compared with the rest of their group living elsewhere. Concentration is the dimension that relates to the actual amount of land a minority lives on within its particular city. The higher segregation is within that particular area, the smaller the amount of land a minority group will control.

The pattern of hypersegregation began in the early 20th century. African-Americans who moved to large cities often moved into the inner-city in order to gain industrial jobs. The influx of new African-American residents caused many European American residents to move to the suburbs in a case of white flight. As industry began to move out of the inner-city, the African-American residents lost the stable jobs that had brought them to the area. Many were unable to leave the inner-city, however, and they became increasingly poor.[1] This created the inner-city ghettos that make up the core of hypersegregation. Though the Civil Rights Act of 1968 banned discrimination in sale of homes, the norms set before the laws continue to perpetuate this hypersegregation.[14] Data from the 2000 census shows that 29 metropolitan areas displayed black-white hypersegregation; in 2000. Two areas—Los Angeles and New York City—displayed Hispanic-white hypersegregation. No metropolitan area displayed hypersegregation for Asians or for Native Americans.[15]

Racism and issues

For much of the 20th century, it was a popular belief among many whites that the presence of blacks in a white neighborhood would bring down property values. The United States government created a policy to segregate the country which involved making low-interest mortgages available to families through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and the Veteran's Administration. Black families were legally entitled to these loans but were sometimes denied these loans because the planners behind this initiative labeled many black neighborhoods throughout the country as "in decline." The rules for loans did not say that "black families cannot get loans"; rather, they said people from "areas in decline" could not get loans. While a case could be made that the wording did not appear to compel segregation, it tended to have that effect. In fact, this administration was formed as part of the New Deal to all Americans and mostly affected black residents of inner city areas; most black families did in fact live in the inner city areas of large cities and almost entirely occupied these areas after the end of World War II when whites began to move to new suburbs.

In addition to encouraging white families to move to suburbs by providing them loans to do so, the government uprooted many established African American communities by building elevated highways through their neighborhoods. To build a highway, tens of thousands of single-family homes were destroyed. Because these properties were summarily declared to be "in decline," families were given pittances for their properties, and were forced into federal housing called "the projects." To build these projects, still more single family homes were demolished.

In 1913, President Woodrow Wilson ordered the segregation of the federal Civil Service.[16] White and black people would sometimes be required to eat separately, go to separate schools, use separate public toilets, park benches, train, buses, and water fountains, etc. In some locales, in addition to segregated seating, it could be forbidden for stores or restaurants to serve different races under the same roof. Public segregation was challenged by individual citizens on rare occasions but had minimal impact on civil rights issues, until December 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks refused to be moved to the back of a bus for a white passenger. Parks' civil disobedience had the effect of sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Parks' act of defiance became an important symbol of the modern Civil Rights Movement and Parks became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation.

Segregation was also pervasive in housing. State constitutions (for example, that of California) had clauses giving local jurisdictions the right to regulate where members of certain races could live. In 1917, the Supreme Court in the case of Buchanan v. Warley declared municipal resident segregation ordinances unconstitutional. In response, whites resorted to the restrictive covenant, a formal deed restriction binding white property owners in a given neighborhood not to sell to blacks. Whites who broke these agreements could be sued by "damaged" neighbors.[17] In the 1948 case of Shelley v. Kraemer, the U.S. Supreme Court finally ruled that such covenants were unenforceable in a court of law. However, residential segregation patterns had already become established in most American cities, and have often persisted up to the present (see white flight and Redlining).

In most cities, the only way blacks could relieve the pressure of crowding that resulted from increasing migration was to expand residential borders into surrounding previously white neighborhoods, a process that often resulted in harassment and attacked by white residents whose intolerant attitudes were intensified by fears that black neighbors would cause property values to decline. Moreover the increased presence of African Americans in cities, North and South, as well as their competition with whites for housing, jobs, and political influence sparked a series of race riots. In 1898 white citizens of Wilmington, North Carolina, resenting African Americans’ involvement in local government and incensed by an editorial in an African American newspaper accusing white women of loose sexual behavior, rioted and killed dozens of blacks. In the fury’s wake, white supremacists overthrew the city government, expelling black and white office holders, and instituted restrictions to prevent blacks from voting. In Atlanta in 1906, newspaper accounts alleging attacks by black men on white women provoked an outburst of shooting and killing that left twelve blacks dead and seventy injured. An influx of unskilled black strikebreakers into East St Louis, Illinois, heightened racial tensions in 1917. Rumors that blacks were arming themselves for an attack on whites resulted in numerous attacks by white mobs on black neighborhoods. On July 1, blacks fired back at a car whose occupants they believed had shot into their homes and mistakenly killed two policemen riding in a car. The next day, a full scaled riot erupted which ended only after nine whites and thirty-nine blacks had been killed and over three hundred buildings were destroyed.

With the migration to the North of many black workers at the turn of the 20th century, and the friction that occurred between white and black workers during this time, segregation was and continues to be a phenomenon in northern cities as well as in the South. Whites generally allocate tenements as housing to the poorest blacks. It would be well to remember, though, that while racism had to be legislated out of the South, many in the North, including Quakers and others who ran the Underground Railroad, were ideologically opposed to southerners' treatment of blacks. By the same token, many white southerners have a claim to closer relationships with blacks than wealthy northern whites, regardless of the latter's stated political persuasion.[18]

Anti-miscegenation laws (also known as miscegenation laws) prohibited whites and non-whites from marrying each other. These state laws always targeted marriage between whites and blacks, and in some states also prohibited marriages between whites and Native Americans or Asians. As one of many examples of such state laws, Utah's marriage law had an anti-miscegenation component that was passed in 1899 and repealed in 1963. It prohibited marriage between a white and anyone considered a Negro (Black American), mulatto (half black), quadroon (one-quarter black), octoroon (one-eighth black), "Mongolian" (East Asian), or member of the "Malay race" (a classification used to refer to Filipinos). No restrictions were placed on marriages between people who were not "white persons." (Utah Code, 40-1-2, C. L. 17, §2967 as amended by L. 39, C. 50; L. 41, Ch. 35.).

In World War I, blacks served in the United States Armed Forces in segregated units. Black soldiers were often poorly trained and equipped, and were often put on the frontlines in suicide missions. The 369th Infantry (formerly 15th New York National Guard) Regiment distinguished themselves, and were known as the "Harlem Hellfighters".[19][20]

World War II saw the first black military pilots in the U.S., the Tuskegee Airmen, 99th Fighter Squadron,[21] and also saw the segregated 183rd Engineer Combat Battalion participate in the liberation of Jewish survivors at Buchenwald.[22] Despite the institutional policy of racially segregated training for enlisted members and in tactical units; Army policy dictated that black and white Soldiers would train together in officer candidate schools (beginning in 1942).[23][24] Thus, the Officer Candidate School became the Army's first formal experiment with integration- with all Officer Candidates, regardless of race, living and training together.[24]

During World War II, 110,000 people of Japanese descent (whether citizens or not) were placed in internment camps. Hundreds of people of German and Italian descent were also imprisoned (see German American internment and Italian American internment). While the government program of Japanese American internment targeted all the Japanese in America as enemies, most German and Italian Americans were left in peace and were allowed to serve in the US army.

Pressure to end racial segregation in the government grew among African Americans and progressives after the end of World War II. On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981, ending segregation in the United States Armed Forces.

A law need not stipulate de jure segregation to have the effect of de facto segregation. For example, the eagle feather law, which governs the possession and religious use of eagle feathers, was officially written to protect then dwindling eagle populations while still protecting traditional Native American spiritual and religious customs, of which the use of eagles are central. The eagle feather law later met charges of promoting racial segregation because of the law’s provision authorizing the possession of eagle feathers to members of only one ethnic group, Native Americans, and forbidding Native Americans from including non-Native Americans in indigenous customs involving eagle feathers—a common modern practice dating back to the early 16th century.

Sports segregation was also a major national issue as well.[25] In 1900, just four years after the US Supreme Court separate but equal constitutional, segregation was enforced in horse racing, a sport which had previously seen many African American jockeys win Triple Crown races.[26] Widespread segregation would also exist in bicycle and automobile racing.[26] In 1890, however, segregation would end greatly African American track and field athletes after various universities and colleges in the northern states agreed to integrate their track and field teams.[26] Like track and field, soccer was another which experienced a low amount of segregation in the early days of segregation.[26] Many colleges and universities in the northern states would also allow African Americans on to play their football teams as well.[26]

Segregation was also hardly enforced in boxing.[26] In 1908, Jack Johnson, would become the first African American to win the World Heavyweight Title.[26] However, Johnson's personal life (i.e. his publicly acknowledged relationships with white women) made him very unpopular among many Caucasians throughout the world.[26] It was not until 1937, when Joe Louis defeated German boxer Max Schmeling, that the general American public would embrace, and greatly accept, an African American as the World Heavyweight Champion.[26]

In 1904, Charles Follis became the first African American to play for a professional football team, the Shelby Blues,[26] and professional football leagues agreed to allow only a limited amount of teams to be integrated.[26] In 1933, however, the NFL, now the only major football league in America, reversed its limited integration policy and completely segregated the entire league.[26] However, the NFL color barrier would permanently break in 1946, when the Los Angeles Rams signed Kenny Washington and Woody Strode and the Cleveland Browns hired Marion Motley and Bill Wallis.[26]

Prior to the 1930s, basketball would also suffer a great deal of discrimination as well.[26] Black and whites played mostly in different leagues and usually where forbidden from playing in inter-racial games.[26] However, the popularity of the African American basketball team The Harlem Globetrotters would alter the American public's acceptance of African Americans in basketball.[26] By the end of the 1930s, many northern colleges and universities would allow African Americans to play on their teams.[26] In 1942, the color barrier for basketball was removed after Bill Jones and three other African American basketball players joined the Toledo Jim White Chevrolet NBL franchise and five Harlem Globetrotters joined the Chicago Studebakers.[26]

In 1947, segregation in professional sports would suffer a very big blow after Negro Leagues baseball player Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and had a breakthrough season.[26] By the end of 1949, however, only fifteen states had no segregation laws in effect.[27] and only eighteen states had outlawed segregation in public accommodations.[27] Of the remaining states, twenty still allowed school segregation to take place,[27] fourteen still allowed segregation to remain in public transportation[27] and 30 still enforced laws forbidding miscegenation.[27]

Despite all the legal changes that have taken place since the 1940s and especially in the 1960s (see Desegregation), the United States remains, to some degree, a segregated society, with housing patterns, school enrollment, church membership, employment opportunities, and even college admissions all reflecting significant de facto segregation. Supporters of affirmative action argue that the persistence of such disparities reflects either racial discrimination or the persistence of its effects.

Gates v. Collier was a case decided in federal court that brought an end to the trustee system and flagrant inmate abuse at the notorious Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, Mississippi. In 1972 federal judge, William C. Keady found that Parchman Farm violated modern standards of decency. He ordered an immediate end to all unconstitutional conditions and practices. Racial segregation of inmates was abolished. And the trusty system, which allow certain inmates to have power and control over others, was also abolished.[28]

More recently, the disparity between the racial compositions of inmates in the American prison system has led to concerns that the U.S. Justice system furthers a "new apartheid".[29]


The intellectual root of Plessy v. Ferguson, the landmark United States Supreme Court decision, upholding the constitutionality of racial segregation, under the doctrine of "separate but equal" were, in part, tied to the scientific racism of the era, however the popular support for the decision was more likely a result of the racist beliefs held by most whites at the time.[30] Later, the court decision, Brown v. Board of Education would reject the ideas of scientific racists about the need for segregation, especially in schools. Following that decision both scholarly and popular ideas of scientific racism played an important role in the attack and backlash that followed the court decision.[30] The Mankind Quarterly is a journal that has published scientific racism. It was founded in 1960, partly in response to the 1954 United States Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, which ordered the desegregation of US schools.[31][32] Many of the publication's contributors, publishers, and Board of Directors espouse academic hereditarianism. The publication is widely criticized for its extremist politics, anti-semitic bent and its support for scientific racism.[33]

In the South

After the end of Reconstruction, which followed from the Compromise of 1877, the new Democratic governments in the South instituted state laws to separate black and white racial groups, submitting African-Americans to de facto second-class citizenship and enforcing white supremacy. Collectively, these state laws were called the Jim Crow system, after the name of a stereotypical 1830s black minstrel show character.[34]

Racial segregation became the law in most parts of the American South until the American Civil Rights Movement. These laws, known as Jim Crow laws, were similar to apartheid legislation in the forced segregation of facilities and services to African Americans and White Americans, and prohibition of intermarriage. Some similarities between the situation in the Southern United States and South Africa under apartheid were:

  • The races were kept separate, with separate schools, hotels, bars, hospitals, toilets, parks, even telephone booths, and separate sections in libraries, cinemas, and restaurants, the latter often with separate ticket windows and counters. (See laws in the South from
  • State laws prohibiting interracial marriage ("miscegenation") had been enforced throughout the South and in many Northern states since the Colonial era. During Reconstruction, such laws were repealed in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and South Carolina. In all these states such laws were reinstated after the Democratic "Redeemers" came to power. The Supreme Court declared such laws constitutional in 1883. This verdict was overturned only in 1967 by Loving v. Virginia.[35]
  • The voting rights of blacks were systematically restricted or denied through suffrage laws, such as the introduction of poll taxes and literacy tests. Loopholes, such as the grandfather clause and the understanding clause protected the voting rights of white people who were unable to pay the tax or pass the literacy test. Only whites could vote in the Democratic Party primary contests.[35] Where and when black people did manage to vote in numbers, their votes were negated by systematic gerrymander of electoral boundaries.

There were some differences between these practices and formal apartheid in South Africa:

  • In the United States after the American Civil War (1861–1865), there was never a class of blacks who were not citizens (although it is certain that most were treated as second class citizens);
  • There were no "homelands" in the United States (although some areas were informally designated black neighborhoods, and as such were under-resourced and stigmatized), and families were not separated as they were in South Africa by not allowing men to bring their families with them to the areas where they worked.
  • Blacks are a minority in the United States, but a majority in South Africa.
  • In South Africa, voting rights were denied to blacks outright, by denying them citizenship. In the United States, denial of voting rights was enforced by local custom, by lynching and other forms of violence, or by poll taxes and selective enforcement of literacy requirements as described above.

In 1963, George Wallace in his inaugural address as governor of Alabama held to a strong segregationist position. Referring to Alabama as "this cradle of the Confederacy, this very heart of the great Anglo-Saxon Southland" and accusing the integrationist of imposing a "tyranny" on the South, he declared his support for "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." Wallace renounced his own actions in his later years.

In the North

Formal segregation also existed in the North. Some neighborhoods were restricted to blacks and job opportunities were denied them by unions in, for example, the skilled building trades. Blacks who moved to the North in the Great Migration after World War I might have been able to live without the same degree of oppression experienced in the South, however the elements of racism and discrimination still existed.


While it is commonly thought that segregation was a southern phenomenon, segregation was also to be found in "the North". The Chicago suburb of Cicero for example, was made famous when Civil Rights advocate Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a march advocating open (race-unbiased) housing.


In the 1930s, however, job discrimination would end greatly for many African Americans in the North, after the Congress of Industrial Organizations, one of America's lead labor unions at the time, agreed to integrate the union.[36]

School segregation in the North was also a major issue.[37] In Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, towns near the Mason-Dixon line enforced school segregation, despite state laws outlawing the practice of it.[37] Indiana also required school segregation by state law.[37] During the 1940s, however, NAACP lawsuits quickly depleted segregation from the Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey southern areas.[37] In 1949, Indiana officially repealed its school segregation law as well.[37] The most common form of segregation in the northern states came from anti-miscegenation laws.[27]

Contemporary segregation

"As far as I'm concerned, what he did in those days—and they were hard days, in 1937—made it possible for Negroes to have their chance in baseball and other fields."
—Lionel Hampton on Benny Goodman,[38] who helped to launch the careers of many major names in jazz, and during an era of segregation, he also led one of the first racially-integrated musical groups.

Black-White segregation is consistently declining for most metropolitan areas and cities, though there are geographical differences. In 2000, for instance, the US Census Bureau found that residential segregation has on average declined since 1980 in the West and South, but less so in the Northeast and Midwest.[39] Indeed, the top ten most segregated cities are in the Rust Belt, where total populations have declined in the last few decades.[40] Despite these pervasive patterns, changes for individual areas are sometimes small.[41] Thirty years after the civil rights era, the United States remains a residentially segregated society in which blacks and whites inhabit different neighborhoods of vastly different quality.[41][42]

Redlining is the practice of denying or increasing the cost of services, such as banking, insurance, access to jobs,[43] access to health care,[44] or even supermarkets[45] to residents in certain, often racially determined,[46] areas. The most devastating form of redlining, and the most common use of the term, refers to mortgage discrimination. Data on house prices and attitudes toward integration suggest that in the mid-20th century, segregation was a product of collective actions taken by whites to exclude blacks from their neighborhoods.[47]

The creation of highways in some cases divided and isolated black neighborhoods from goods and services, many times within industrial corridors. For example, Birmingham’s interstate highway system attempted to maintain the racial boundaries that had been established by the city’s 1926 racial zoning law. The construction of interstate highways through black neighborhoods in the city led to significant population loss in those neighborhoods and is associated with an increase in neighborhood racial segregation.[48]

The desire of many whites to avoid having their children attend integrated schools has been a factor in white flight to the suburbs.[49] Recent studies in San Francisco showed that groups of homeowners tended to self-segregate to be with people of the same education level and race.[50] By 1990, the legal barriers enforcing segregation had been mostly replaced by decentralized racism, where whites pay more than blacks to live in predominantly white areas.[47] The residential and social segregation of whites from blacks in the United States creates a socialization process that limits whites' chances for developing meaningful relationships with blacks and other minorities. The segregation experienced by whites from blacks fosters segregated lifestyles and leads them to develop positive views about themselves and negative views about blacks.[51]

Segregation affects people from all social classes. For example, a survey conducted in 2000 found that middle-income, suburban African Americans live in neighborhoods with many more whites than do poor, inner-city blacks. But their neighborhoods are not the same as those of whites having the same socioeconomic characteristics; and, in particular, middle-class blacks tend to live with white neighbors who are less affluent than they are. While, in a significant sense, they are less segregated than poor blacks, race still powerfully shapes their residential options.[52]

The number of hypersegregated inner-cities is now beginning to decline. By reviewing census data, Rima Wilkes and John Iceland found that nine metropolitan areas that had been hypersegregated in 1990 were not by 2000.[53] Only two new cities, Atlanta and Mobile, Alabama, became hypersegregated over the same time span.[53] This points towards a trend of greater integration across most of the United States.

Residential segregation

Racial segregation is most pronounced in housing. Although people of different races may work together, they are still very unlikely to live in integrated neighborhoods. This pattern differs only by degree in different metropolitan areas.[55]

Residential segregation persists for a variety of reasons. Segregated neighborhoods may be reinforced by the practice of "steering" by real estate agents. This occurs when a real estate agent makes assumptions about where their client might like to live based on the color of their skin.[56] Housing discrimination may occur when landlords lie about the availability of housing based on the race of the applicant, or give different terms and conditions to the housing based on race; for example, requiring that black families pay a higher security deposit than white families.[57]

Redlining has helped preserve segregated living patterns for blacks and whites in the United States because discrimination motivated by prejudice is often contingent on the racial composition of neighborhoods where the loan is sought and the race of the applicant. Lending institutions have been shown to treat black mortgage applicants differently when buying homes in white neighborhoods than when buying homes in black neighborhoods in 1998.[58]

These discriminatory practices are illegal. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity is charged with administering and enforcing fair housing laws. Any person who believes that they have faced housing discrimination based on their race can file a fair housing complaint.[59]

Massey and Denton propose that the fundamental cause of poverty among African Americans is segregation. This segregation has created the inner city black urban ghettos that create poverty traps and keep blacks from being able to escape the underclass. These neighborhoods have institutionalized an inner city black culture that is negatively stigmatized and purports the economic situation of the black community. The use of black English vernacular as a variant of the English language has made it extremely difficult for black children in the educational system as well as other African Americans on the job market. This language that has arisen from residential segregation has crippled children of these neighborhoods because they cannot easily transition between standard English school work and books to the black English vernacular that they use in their homes and with their friends.[2] Racial segregation or separation can lead to social, economic and political tensions.[55]

Geographically, residential segregation splits communities between the black inner city and white suburbs. This phenomenon is due to white flight where whites actively leave neighborhoods because of a black presence. There are more than just geographical consequences to this, as the money leaves and poverty grows, crime rates jump and businesses leave and follow the money. This creates a job shortage in segregated neighborhoods and perpetuates the economic inequality in the inner city. With the wealth and businesses gone from inner city areas, the tax base decreases, which hurts funding for education. Consequently those that can afford to leave the area for better schools leave decreasing the tax base for educational funding even more. Any business that is left or would consider opening doesn’t want to invest in a place nobody has any money but has a lot of crime, meaning the only things that are left in these communities are poor black people with little opportunity for employment or education."[60]

Today, many whites are willing, and are able, to pay a premium to live in a predominantly white neighborhood. Equivalent housing in white areas commands a higher rent.[61] By bidding up the price of housing, many white neighborhoods again effectively shut out blacks, because blacks are unwilling, or unable, to pay the premium to buy entry into white neighborhoods. While some scholars maintain that residential segregation has continued—some sociologists have termed it "hypersegregation" or "American Apartheid"[2]—the US Census Bureau has shown that residential segregation has been in overall decline since 1980.[62] According to a 2012 study found that "credit markets enabled a substantial fraction of Hispanic families to live in neighbourhoods with fewer black families, even though a substantial fraction of black families were moving to more racially integrated areas. The net effect is that credit markets increased racial segregation".[63]

Commercial & industrial segregation

Dan Immergluck writes that in 2003 small businesses in black neighborhoods still received fewer loans, even after accounting for businesses density, businesses size, industrial mix, neighborhood income, and the credit quality of local businesses.[64] Gregory D. Squires wrote in 2003 that it is clear that race has long affected and continues to affect the policies and practices of the insurance industry.[65] Workers living in American inner-cities have a harder time finding jobs than suburban workers, a factor that disproportionately affects black workers.[66]



One major impact that this has on society in America is in the area of education. The segregation that many young African-Americans experience causes them undue stress which has been proven to undermine cognitive development. Eric Hanushek and his co-authors have considered racial concentrations in schools, and they find large and important effects. Black students appear to be systematically hurt by larger concentrations of black students in their school. These impacts do not extend to either white or Hispanic students in the school, implying that it is related to peer interactions and not school quality.[67] Moreover, it appears that the impact of black concentrations in schools is largest for high achieving black students.[68]

Even African-Americans from poor inner-cities that do attend universities continue to suffer academically due to the stress they suffer from having family and friends still in the poverty stricken inner cities.[69] Education is also used as a means to perpetuate hypersegregation. Real estate agents often implicitly use school racial composition as a way of enticing white buyers into the segregated ring surrounding the inner-city[70]

The percentage of black children who now go to integrated public schools is at its lowest level since 1968.[71] The words of "American apartheid" have been used in reference to the disparity between white and black schools in America. Those who compare this inequality to apartheid frequently point to unequal funding for predominantly black schools.[72]

In Chicago, by the academic year 2002–2003, 87 percent of public-school enrollment was black or Hispanic; less than 10 percent of children in the schools were white. In Washington, D.C., 94 percent of children were black or Hispanic; less than 5 percent were white. In St. Louis, 82 percent of the student population were black or Hispanic; in Philadelphia and Cleveland, 79 percent; in Los Angeles, 84 percent, in Detroit, 96 percent; in Baltimore, 89 percent. In New York City, nearly three-quarters of the students were black or Hispanic.

Kozol expanded on this topic in his book The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America.

The "New American apartheid" refers to the allegation that US drug and criminal policies in practice target blacks on the basis of race. The radical left-wing web-magazine ZNet featured a series of 4 articles on "The New American Apartheid" in which it drew parallels between the treatment of blacks by the American justice system and apartheid:

Modern prisoners occupy the lowest rungs on the social class ladder, and they always have. The modern prison system (along with local jails) is a collection of ghettos or poorhouses reserved primarily for the unskilled, the uneducated, and the powerless. In increasing numbers this system is being reserved for racial minorities, especially blacks, which is why we are calling it the New American Apartheid. This is the same segment of American society that has experienced some of the most drastic reductions in income and they have been targeted for their involvement in drugs and the subsequent violence that extends from the lack of legitimate means of goal attainment.[73]

This article has been discussed at the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice and by several school boards attempting to address the issue of continued segregation.

In higher education some groups have contested racially separatist policies in college dormitories. In 2002, the New York Civil Rights Coalition[74] released "The Stigma of Inclusion, Racial Paternalism and Separatism in Higher Education." The report underscored patterns of self-segregation on college campuses that the authors alleged were encouraged by college administrators.[75][76]

Due to education being funded primarily through local and state revenue, the quality of education varies greatly depending on the geographical location of the school. In some areas, education is primarily funded through revenue from property taxes; therefore, there is a direct correlation in some areas between the price of homes and the amount of money allocated to educating the area’s youth.[77] A 2010 US Census showed that 27.4% of all African-Americans lived under the poverty line, the highest percentage of any other ethnic minority in the United States.[78] Therefore, in predominantly African-American areas, otherwise known as ‘ghettos’, the amount of money available for education is extremely low. This is referred to as “funding segregation”.[77] This questionable system of educational funding can be seen as one of the primary reasons contemporary racial segregation continues to prosper. Predominantly Caucasian areas with more money funneled into primary and secondary educational institutions, allow their students the resources to succeed academically and obtain post-secondary degrees. This practice continues to ethnically, socially and economically divide America.

Alternative certificate programs were introduced in many inner-city schools and rural areas. These programs award a person a teaching license even though he/she has not completed a traditional teaching degree. This program came into effect in the 1980s throughout most states in response to the dwindling number of people seeking to earn a secondary degree in education.[79] This program has been very controversial. It is, “booming despite little more than anecdotal evidence of their success.[…] there are concerns about how they will perform as teachers, especially since they are more likely to end up in poor districts teaching students in challenging situations.”[80] Alternative Certificate graduates tend to teach African-Americans and other ethnic minorities in inner-city schools and schools in impoverished small rural towns. Therefore, impoverished minorities not only have to cope with having the smallest amount of resources for their educational faciliteis but also with having the least trained teachers in the nation. Valorie Delp, a mother residing in an inner-city area whose child attends a school taught by teachers awarded by an alternative certificate program notes:

"One teacher we know who is in this program said he had visions of coming in to "save" the kids and the school and he really believes that this idea was kind of stoked in his program. No one ever says that you may have kids who threaten to stab you, or call you unspeakable names to your face, or can't read despite being in 7th grade."[81]

Delp showcases that while many graduates of these certificate programs have honorable intentions and are educated, intelligent people, there is a reason why teachers have traditionally had to take a significant amount of training before being officially certified as a teacher. The experience they gain through their practicum and extensive classroom experience equips them with the tools necessary to educate today’s youth.

Some measures have been taken to try give less affluent families the ability to educate their children. President Ronald Reagan introduced the McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act on July 22, 1987.[82] This Act was meant to allow children the ability to succeed if their families did not have a permanent residence. Leo Stagman, a single, African-American parent, located in Berkeley, California, whose daughter had received a great deal of aid from the Act wrote on October 20, 2012 that,

"During her education, she [Leo’s daughter] was eligible for the free lunch program and received assistance under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Educational Act. I know my daughter’s performance is hers, but I wonder where she would have been without the assistance she received under the McKinney-Vento Act. Many students at BHS owe their graduation and success to the assistance under this law."[83]

Leo then goes on to note that, “the majority of the students receiving assistance under the act are Black and Brown.”[83] There have been various other Acts enacted to try and aid impoverished youth with the chance to succeed. One of these Acts includes the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). This Act was meant to increase the accountability of public schools and their teachers by creating standardized testing which would give an overview of the success of the school’s ability to educate their students.[84] Schools which repeatedly performed poorly would have increased attention and assistance from the federal government.[84] One of the intended outcomes of the Act was to narrow the class and racial achievement gap in the United States by instituting common expectations for all students.[84] Test scores have shown to be improving for minority populations, however, they are improving at the same rate for Caucasian children as well. This Act therefore, has done little to close the educational gap between Caucasian and minority children.[85]

There has also been an issue with minority populations becoming educated because to a fear of being accused of “Acting White.” It is a hard definition to pin down, however, this is a negative term predominantly used by African-Americans that showing interest in one’s studies is a betrayal of the African-American culture as one is trying to be a part of white society rather than staying true to his/her roots. Roland G. Fryer, Jr., at Harvard University has noted that, “There is necessarily a trade-off between doing well and rejection by your peers when you come from a traditionally low-achieving group, especially when that group comes into contact with more outsiders.”[86] Therefore, not only are there economic and prehistoric causes of racial educational segregation, but there are also social notions that continue to be obstacles to be overcome before minority groups can achieve success in education.


Another impact of hypersegregation can be found in the health of the residents of certain areas. Poorer inner-cities often lack the health care that is available in outside areas. That many inner-cities are so isolated from other parts of society also is a large contributor to the poor health often found in inner-city residents. The overcrowded living conditions in the inner-city caused by hypersegregation means that the spread of infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, occurs much more frequently.[87] This is known as “epidemic injustice” because racial groups confined in a certain area are affected much more often than those living outside the area.

Poor inner-city residents also must contend with other factors that negatively affect health. Research has proven that in every major American city, hypersegregated blacks are far more likely to be exposed to dangerous levels of air toxins.[88] Daily exposure to this polluted air means that African-Americans living in these areas are at greater risk of disease.


One area where hypersegregation seems to have the greatest effect is in violence experienced by residents. The number of violent crimes in America in general has fallen. The number of murders in America fell 9% from the 1980s to the 1990s.[89] Despite this number, the crime rates in the hypersegregated inner-cities of America are rising. Young African-American men are eleven times more likely to be shot to death and nine times more likely to be murdered than their European American peers.[2] Poverty, high unemployment, and broken families, all factors more prevalent in hypersegregated inner-cities, all contribute significantly to the unequal levels of violence experienced by African-Americans. Research has proven that the more segregated the surrounding European American suburban ring is, the rate of violent crime in the inner-city will rise, but, likewise, crime in the outer area will drop.[89]

See also

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Further reading

  • Bond, Horace Mann. “The Extent and Character of Separate Schools in the United States.” in JSTOR, by a leading black scholar
  • Chafe, William Henry, Raymond Gavins, and Robert Korstad, eds. Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated South (2003) excerpt and text search
  • Hasday, Judy L. The Civil Rights Act of 1964: An End to Racial Segregation (2007), for high schools
  • Levy, Alan Howard. Tackling Jim Crow: Racial Segregation in Professional Football (2003)
  • Massey, Douglas S., and Nancy Denton. American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass (1993)
  • Myrdal, Gunnar. An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy (1944). Highly influential and detailed analysis of the Jim Crow system in operation. excerpt and text search
  • Ritterhouse, Jennifer. Growing Up Jim Crow: The Racial Socialization of Black and White Southern Children, 1890-1940. (2006) excerpt and text search
  • Tarasawa, Beth. "New Patterns of Segregation: Latino and African American Students in Metro Atlanta High Schools," Southern Spaces, January 19, 2009
  • Woodward, C. Vann. The Strange Career of Jim Crow (1955) Highly influential classic history by Pulitzer prize winner. complete text online at ACLS e-books,
  • LeeAnn Lands, "A City Divided", Southern Spaces, December 29, 2009.

External links

  • Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
  • File a housing discrimination complaint
  • "Remembering Jim Crow" – Minnesota Public Radio (multi-media)
  • "Africans in America" – PBS 4-Part Series
  • Black History Collection
  • "the Rise and Fall of Jim Crow", 4-part series from PBS distributed by California Newsreel
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