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Jim Crow Rules the Day: Segregation Laws


In the years following the end of Reconstruction in 1877, white politicians and lawmakers mostly retreated on their efforts to guarantee African Americans the full rights and protections of citizenship. In the former Confederacy and neighboring states, local governments constructed a legal system aimed at re-establishing a society based on white supremacy. African American men were largely barred from voting. Legislation known as Jim Crow laws separated people of color from whites in schools, housing, jobs, and public gathering places. The following laws are just a handful of examples of the regulations that proscribed African American life in large and small ways between Reconstruction and the mid-1960s.

"All railroads carrying passengers in the state (other than street railroads) shall provide equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races, by providing two or more passenger cars for each passenger train, or by dividing the cars by a partition, so as to secure separate accommodations."
—Tennessee, 1891

"It shall be unlawful for any white prisoner to be handcuffed or otherwise chained or tied to a negro prisoner."
—Arkansas, 1903

"Marriages are void when one party is a white person and the other is possessed of one-eighth or more negro, Japanese, or Chinese blood."
—Nebraska, 1911

"The Corporate Commission is hereby vested with power to require telephone companies in the State of Oklahoma to maintain separate booths for white and colored patrons when there is a demand for such separate booths."
—Oklahoma, 1915

"Any person...presenting for public acceptance or general information, arguments or suggestions in favor of social equality or of intermarriage between whites and negroes, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars or imprisonment not exceeding six months or both fine and imprisonment in the discretion of the court."
—Mississippi, 1920

"Any white woman who shall suffer or permit herself to be got with child by a negro or mulatto...shall be sentenced to the penitentiary for not less than eighteen months."
—Maryland, 1924

"No colored barber shall serve as a barber to white women or girls."
—Atlanta, Georgia, 1926

"Separate free schools shall be established for the education of children of African descent; and it shall be unlawful for any colored child to attend any white school, or any white child to attend a colored school."
—Missouri, 1929

"It shall be unlawful for a negro and white person to play together or in company with each other in any game of cards or dice, dominoes or checkers."
—Birmingham, Alabama, 1930


"Jim Crow Laws," Separate is Not Equal: Brown v. Board of Eduction, National Museum of American History. []