Racial segregation in the United States has meant the physical separation and provision of separate facilities (especially during the Jim Crow era), but it can also refer to other manifestations of racial discrimination such as separation of roles within an institution, such as the United States Armed Forces up to 1948 when black units were typically separated from white units but were led by white officers. Racial segregation in the United States can be divided into de jure and de facto segregation. De jure segregation, sanctioned or enforced by force of law, was stopped by federal enforcement of a series of Supreme Court decisions beginning with Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954. The process of throwing off legal segregation in the United States lasted through much of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when civil rights demonstrations resulted in public opinion turning against enforced segregation. De facto segregation — segregation “in fact” — persists to varying degrees without sanction of law to the present day. The contemporary racial segregation seen in America in residential neighborhoods has been shaped by public policies, mortgage discrimination and redlining.
After Congress passed the Reconstruction Act of 1867, the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1870 providing the right to vote, and the Civil Rights Act of 1875 forbidding racial segregation in accommodations, Federal occupation troops in the South assured blacks the right to vote and to elect their own political leaders. The Reconstruction amendments asserted the supremacy of the national state and the formal equality under the law of everyone within it. However this radical Reconstruction era would collapse because of multidimensional racialism related to the spread of democratic idealism. What began as region wide passage of ‘Jim Crow’ segregation laws that focused on issues of equal access to public activities and facilities would by 1910 have spread throughout the south, mandating the segregation of whites and blacks in the public sphere.