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What are Jim Crow Laws?

Navigation:  Home > Legal Questions > What are Jim Crow Laws?


Jim Crowe laws were hate fueled laws that legalized segregation of and discrimination against African Americans after the United States Civil War. Named after a popular 19th-century minstrel song that stereotyped African Americans, "Jim Crow" came to personify the system of government-sanctioned racial oppression and segregation in the United States. Jim Crow laws established that "separate was equal" system between the races. The Supreme Court ruling in 1896 in Plessy v. Ferguson that separate facilities for whites and blacks were constitutional encouraged the passage of discriminatory laws that wiped out the gains made by blacks during Reconstruction. Railways and streetcars, public waiting rooms, restaurants, boardinghouses, theaters, and public parks were segregated; separate schools, hospitals, and other public institutions, generally of inferior quality, were designated for blacks.


Jim Crow laws stuck around in the United States until they were chipped away at in the Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education, Topeka, in 1954, which ruled that "separate but equal" was not, in fact, equal. The laws were further eroded during the Civil Rights movement, led by Martin Luther King, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

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