Legal segregation

How was legalized segregation created in the south?

When reconstruction came to an end in 1877 southerners wanted more
tan anything else to rid themselves of what they felt was the “Black
problem.” Years of slavery had left an entrenched racism.
Reconstruction had not taught southerners that Blacks were equals. In
fact, the very notion was abhorrent to southerners. Now that
reconstruction was over southerners had to find a way to limit the
political power of blacks and place themselves back in power. They
also wanted nothing to do with Blacks and began to pass laws that
would ensure white social, economic and political power.

I. The creation of a divided society.

A. How did White southerners remove the political
power of Blacks?

1. As discussed in the last lesson, whites passed a
series of voter qualification laws such as:

a. Poll Taxes

b. Literacy Tests

c. Grandfather Clause

2. All of these laws served to disenfranchise blacks. (If you
don’t know the word disenfranchise look it up in the last lesson’s

B. How did white southerners justify these laws?

1. According to the constitution laws regarding voter
qualifications were a reserved power left up to the states. Therefore
southern states could pass laws that went around the 15th amendment.

C. How did Whites separate Blacks from Whites?

1. The passed a series of laws making it illegal for
Blacks and Whites to share the same schools, trains, etc. These were
called Jim Crow Laws.

2. Here are some examples of the Jim Crow laws in Alabama.

No person or corporation shall require any white female nurse
to nurse in wards or rooms in hospitals, either public or private, in
which Negro men are placed.

The conductor of each passenger train is authorized and
required to assign each passenger to the car or the division of the
car, when it is divided by a partition, designated for the race to
which such passenger belongs.

Every employer of white or negro males shall provide for such
white or negro males reasonably accessible and separate toilet

D. What happened when the Jim Crow Laws were challenged?
(Plessy v Ferguson)

1. Blacks felt that the Jim Crow laws violated the
14th amendment that provided equal protection under the law.

2. Homer Plessey, a member of a citizens group protesting the Jim
Crow laws that created segregation in the south, was arrested for
violating the law that forced Blacks to ride in separate train cars.
Plessey claimed that the laws violated the 14th amendment
to the Constitution that said that all citizens were to receive
“equal protection under the law.” The state argued that Plessey and
other Blacks did receive equal treatment, just separate.

3. Plessey’s conviction of a violation of Jim Crow laws has upheld
by the Court. The Court ruled that the 14th amendment said
that Blacks did not have the right to the same facilities, just equal

facilities. By ruling this way the court created the doctrine of
“separate but equal.”

Here are excerpts from the decision:

Laws permitting, and even requiring, their separation (of
Blacks and Whites) in places where they are liable to be brought into
contact do not necessarily imply the inferiority of either race to
the other, and have been generally, if not universally, recognized as
within the competency of the state legislatures in the exercise of
their police power. The most common instance of this is connected
with the establishment of separate schools for white and colored
children, which has been held to be a valid exercise of the
legislative power even by courts of States where the political rights
of the colored race have been longest and most earnestly

We think the enforced separation of the races… neither
abridges the privileges or immunities of the colored man, deprives
him of his property without due process of law, nor denies him the
equal protection of the laws within the meaning of the Fourteenth

– Justice Henry Brown, Majority Opinion, Plessey v
Ferguson, 1896.

4. This ruling set the stage for 58 years of de jure
until overturned by Brown v The Board of
Education, Topeka Kansas
in 1959.