Jim Crow laws

state and local laws enforcing racial segregation in the Southern United States

The Jim Crow laws were a number of laws requiring racial segregation in the United States. These laws were enforced in different states between 1876 and 1965. "Jim Crow" laws provided a systematic legal basis for segregating and discriminating against African Americans. The laws first appeared after the Civil War and the Reconstruction Era and were enforced through the mid-twentieth century. They were about segregating black and white people in all public buildings. "Jim Crow" was a racist term for a black person. Black people were usually treated worse than white people. This segregation was also done in the armed forces, schools, restaurants, on buses and in what jobs blacks got. In 1954, the US Supreme Court ruled that such segregation in state-run schools was against the US Constitution. The decision is known as Brown v. Board of Education. The other Jim Crow laws were abolished by the Civil Rights Act of 1964[1] and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) fought against the Jim Crow laws.

A bus station in Durham, North Carolina, in May 1940.



After the Civil War, the U.S. government tried to enforce the rights of ex-slaves in the South through a process called Reconstruction. However, in 1876, Reconstruction ended. By the 1890s, the Southern states' legislatures were all-white again. Southern Democrats, who did not support civil rights for blacks, completely ruled the South.[2] This gave them a lot of power in the United States Congress.[3] For example, Southern Democrats were able to make sure that laws against lynching did not pass.

Starting in 1890, Southern Democrats began to pass state laws that took away the rights African Americans had gained. These racist laws became known as Jim Crow laws. For example, they included:

  • Laws that made it impossible for blacks to vote (this is called disenfranchisement). Since they could not vote, blacks also could not be on juries.[4][5]
  • Laws that required racial segregation - separation of blacks and whites. For example, blacks could not:[3]

In 1896, the United States Supreme Court ruled in a case called Plessy v. Ferguson that these laws were legal. They said that having things be "separate but equal" was fine.[6] In the South, everything was separate. However, places like black schools and libraries got much less money and were not as good as places for whites.[6][7][8] Things were separate, but not equal.



  1. Civil Rights Act of 1964
  2. Stephens Jr., Otis H; Scheb, John M. (2007). American Constitutional Law, Volume II: Civil Rights and Liberties. Cengage Learning. p. 528. ISBN 978-0495097051.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Finkelman, Paul, ed. (2009). Encyclopedia of African American History: 1896 to the Present: From the Age of Segregation to the Twenty-first Century (Volume IV). Oxford University Press. pp. 199–200. ISBN 978-0195167795.
  4. Perman, Michael (2001). Struggle for Mastery: Disfranchisement in the South, 1888–1908. University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0807825938
  5. Koussecr, J. Morgan (1974). The Shaping of Southern Politics: Suffrage Restriction and the Establishment of the One-Party South. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300016963
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Timeline of Events Leading to the Brown v. Board of Education Decision, 1954". Teachers’ Resources. United States National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved March 2, 2016.
  7. Fultz M 2006 (2006). "Black Public Libraries in the South in the Era of De Jure Segregation". Libraries & the Cultural Record. 41 (3): 337–59. doi:10.1353/lac.2006.0042. S2CID 142811711.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  8. Logan, Rayford W. (1997). The Betrayal of the Negro from Rutherford B. Hayes to Woodrow Wilson. Da Capo Press. pp. 97-98. ISBN 978-0306807589
  • "Jim Crow Laws". Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: Government and Politics. Detroit: Gale, 2009. Student Resources In Context. Web. November 7, 2013.