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Separate but Equal?. One Hundred Years of Overcoming Segregation in the South. Mississippi Department of Archives and History 2011. Freedom from Slavery.

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Separate but Equal?

One Hundred Years of Overcoming

Segregation in the South

Mississippi Department of Archives and History 2011


Freedom from Slavery

  • During the Civil War, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in the states in rebellion only.

  • After the Civil War, several laws were passed to help the newly freed slaves.

    • 13th Amendment in 1865 – outlaws slavery.

    • Civil Rights Act of 1866 – tried to give citizenship to all native-born Americans.

    • 14th Amendment in 1868 – gives all natural born Americans, citizenship and provides equal protection under the law.

    • 15th Amendment in 1870– gives African American males the right to vote.

    • Civil Rights Act of 1875 - gives equal access to public accommodations.

  • Freedmens Bureau – A federal organization that helped freed slaves with their new lives.

Image courtesy of Mississippi Department of Archives and History


The Rise of Jim Crow

Jim Crow was the name of state and local laws in the United States passed from 1876 to 1965 that segregated public facilities telling people they would be “separate but equal.” Jim Crow Laws applied to restrooms, waiting areas, entrances, and schools. In truth everything was not equal – they were inferior.

  • The following laws were passed to make Jim Crow possible and to strengthen it.

    • The U.S. Supreme Court nullifies the Civil Rights Act of 1875.

    • Mississippi’s 1890 Constitution disenfranchises African Americans and poor whites.

    • Plessy v. Ferguson – The U.S. Supreme Court decision validates “separate but equal.”

    • 19th Amendment – gives women the right to vote in 1920.

    • Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 – Native Americans are given citizenship and the right to vote.

  • Early civil rights fighters and groups

    • Ida B. Wells-Barnett – in 1883 Mississippi native Wells refused to give up her seat on the train to Memphis.

    • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded in 1909.

    • Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was founded in 1942.

Image courtesy of Mississippi Department of Archives and History


Testing the Waters

At the end of World War II, African American veterans came home and began to question segregation in a country they had fought for.

  • Stirrings of change

    • CORE’s Journey of Reconciliation in 1947 tested segregation of busing in America.

    • In 1952 Women’s Air Corps Private Sarah Keys is arrested after refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a bus ride home to North Carolina.

  • National actions

    • In 1948 President Harry S. Truman starts the end of segregation in the U.S. Military with Executive Order 9981.

    • 1955 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. This U.S. Supreme Court forbids separate but equal and orders the integration of all U.S. schools.

Image courtesy of Mississippi Department of Archives and History


The Integration Movement Begins

After Brown v. Board of Education, the push for integration grew. Other court decisions would make full integration a possibility. For those who tried to change the “separate but equal” practice, the popular form of protest was non-violence. Protesters would not physically fight, but passively demand change.

  • National actions that start change in motion

    • U.S. Supreme Court says that “separate but equal” should not apply to interstate bus travel in its 1955 Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company decision.

    • With the help of the U.S. Military and President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Little Rock Central High School is pushed to integrate in 1957.

  • Taking a Stand for Integration

    • Rosa Parks is arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her bus seat in1955.

    • The 1957 integration of the city buses ends the 381 day Montgomery Bus Boycott.

    • Also in 1957 the Southern Christian Leadership Council is formed to fight segregation with non-violence.

  • Taking a Stand for Segregation

    • The Mississippi Sovereignty Commission is formed by the state of Mississippi in 1956.

    • In 1957 the Sovereignty Commission makes films and sends out speakers with the message that segregation is “wholesome and good.”


Freedom Rides

With the U.S. Supreme Court decision Boynton v. Virginia a national push to integrate public facilities begins. The Freedom Rides brought national attention to segregation in the south, and the violence behind its enforcement.

  • Demands from the federal government for integration increases.

    • 1961 Boynton v. Virginia – U.S. Supreme Court said racial segregation is illegal under the Interstate Commerce Act.

  • Freedom Rides – In 1961 inter-racial groups of riders leave on a bus ride through the south. Other forms of transportation are also tested with the Freedom Rides.

    • On May 4, 1961 the Riders left from Washington, D.C. bound for the south and New Orleans.

    • They met opposition and violence in South Carolina and other stops on the trip.

    • The violence reached its peak in Alabama.

    • The federal government made a deal for the safety of the Freedom Riders in Mississippi.

    • Riders were arrested in Jackson with a choice of jail or bail. Those who chose jail suffered at the hands of the authorities.

Image courtesy of Mississippi Department of Archives and History


Integration Takes Root

The Freedom Rides started a major movement for civil rights. Following the rides, national groups such as CORE, SNCC, NAACP, and COFO would have a more active role in Mississippi. Events such as the 1964 Freedom Summer encouraged African American Mississippians to register to vote and change Mississippi. Civil rights activists in Mississippi demonstrated amazing courage and willpower in facing threats and loss of employment and money.

  • 1962-1970 Integration fight in Mississippi

    • 1962 – After many tries to stop his entrance, African American James Meredith is admitted to the University of Mississippi under the guard of the federal government as riots rage in Oxford.

    • 1963 – Tougaloo College student sit-ins in downtown Jackson result in 50 arrests of college and high school students and the beatings of two men.

    • 1964  Mississippi’s Freedom Summer students help African Americans register and vote.

    • 1968 – U.S. Supreme Court demands that segregation in schools must end at once.

    • 1970  Thirty-one years after Brown v. Board of Education Mississippi says its schools are integrated, but are they?

Image courtesy of Mississippi Department of Archives and History


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