Racial segregation

separation of humans

Racial segregation is the separation of humans into racial or other ethnic groups in daily life. Racial segregation is generally outlawed, but may exist de facto through social norms, even when there is no strong individual preference for it. Segregation may be maintained by means ranging from discrimination in hiring and in the rental and sale of housing to certain races to vigilante violence (such as lynchings). Generally, a situation that arises when members of different races mutually prefer to associate and do business with members of their own race would usually be described as separation or de facto separation of the races rather than segregation. In the United States, segregation was mandated by law in some states and came with anti-miscegenation laws (prohibitions against interracial marriage). Segregation, however, often allowed close contact in hierarchical situations, such as allowing a person of one race to work as a servant for a member of another race. Segregation can involve spatial separation of the races, and mandatory use of different institutions, such as schools and hospitals by people of different races.


This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilising drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
  • In a world where it means so much to take a man by the hand and sit beside him, to look frankly into his eyes... in a world where a social cigar or a cup of tea together means more than legislative halls and magazine articles and speeches- one can imagine the consequences of the almost utter absence of such social amenities between estranged races, whose separation extends even to parks and street cars.
  • More than two million people in the United States are behind bars, a higher rate of incarceration than any other country in the world, constituting a new Jim Crow. The total population in prison is nearly equal to the number of people in Houston, Texas, the fourth largest U.S. city. African Americans and Latinos make up 56 percent of those incarcerated, while constituting only about 32 percent of the U.S. population. Nearly 50 percent of American adults, and a much higher percentage among African Americans and Native Americans, have an immediate family member who has spent or is currently spending time behind bars. Both black men and Native American men in the United States are nearly three times, Hispanic men nearly two times, more likely to die of police shootings than white men. Racial divides are now widening across the entire planet.
  • That the United States is very nearly 10 per cent a black nation is known to everybody and ignored by almost everybody- except maybe the 10 per cent. There are more than 13 million Negroes in this country; roughly every tenth American man, woman, and child is a Negro. I had heard this often enough but until I reached the South I had no real perception of what it means. I had heard words like "discrimination" and "prejudice" all my life, but I had no concrete knowledge, no fingertip realization, of what lies behind them. I knew that "segregation" was a problem; I had no conception at all of the grim enormousness of the problem. The phrase is trite, but I know no other: the Negro in the South has to be seen to be believed.
  • To compress into a chapter any attempt to describe the Negro in the South is like trying to squeeze a sponge into a matchbox.
  • Atlanta is supposed to rank fairly high among southern cities in its attitude toward Negroes, but it out-ghettoes anything I saw in a European ghetto, even in Warsaw. What I looked at was caste and untouchability- half the time I blinked remembering that this was not India. Consider the case of Professor X, who is any Negro professor at Atlanta University. He works in close conjunction with several whites; but meeting him on the street after hours, they will not be likely to recognize or greet him. In a hotel, he must take the freight elevator, and under no circumstances can he eat in any but a quarantined restaurant or lunchroom. He is too proud to go to a Jim Crow theater; therefore he can scarcely ever see a first-run movie, or go to a concert. If he travels in a day coach he is herded like an animal into a villainously decrepit wooden car. If he visits a friend in a suburb, he will find that the water, electricity, and gas may literally stop where the segregated quarter begins. He cannot as a rule try on a hat or a pair of gloves at a white store. Not conceivably will a true southern white shake hands with him, and at a bus terminal or similar point he will, of course, have to use the "colored" toilet, and drink from a separate water fountain. He is expected to give the right of way to whites on the sidewalk, and he will almost never see the picture of a fellow Negro in a newspaper, unless of a criminal. His children must attend a segregated school; they could not possibly go to a white swimming pool, bowling alley, dance hall or other place of recreation. When they grow up, no state university in the entire South will receive them.
  • Turn to the white side briefly. I asked a young, intelligent, and quite "liberal" politician to explain some aspects of all this on a strictly personal basis; I tried to get from him exactly what he would and would not do. Eat with a Negro? Good God, no! Go to a Negro's house? Not under any circumstances. ("Ah couldn't afford it; might get known.") Go to a reception for, say, Paul Robeson? ("Couldn't happen here; if it was in New York Ah might go if it was a big crowd and Ah wasn't known.") Shake hands with a Negro? ("Ah shook hands with one in Pohtland, Oregon, last year; fust time in mah whole life!") Sleep with a pretty Negro girl? Answer confused.
  • The basic pattern of segregation in the South is unwavering and absolute, though minor modifications come from time to time. Technically segregation is simply a term to denote the various strictures separating Negroes from whites, and it has manifestations all the way from the laws prohibiting intermarriage to such taboos as that which commonly forbids a Negro to argue with a white man. It has existed since the first Negroes arrived at Jamestown in 1619; slavery was simply the first form of segregation. It not only includes Jim Crowism in schools and places of amusement, but such items in "etiquette" as the principle that a southern Negro must go into a white man's house by the back door. Return to such a matter as transportation. In Atlanta, taxicabs driven by whites serve whites only. As to busses Negroes are of course obliged to squeeze into the back seats everywhere in the South; in Mississippi they may actually be separated from whites by a curtain. The analogy to India- purdah!- comes to mind again.
  • The economic cost of segregation is of course preposterous and staggering. It is a cardinal reason why the South is so poor. In effect, it means that two sets of everything from schools to insane asylums to penitentiaries to playgrounds have to be maintained.
  • There are 55,000 Negro college graduates in the United States. Most Southern whites have never seen one.
  • Not long ago, but before World War II was over, a young Negro girl was asked how she would punish Hitler. Answer: "Paint him black and bring him over here."
  • To be in the margin is to be part of the whole but outside the main body. As black Americans living in a small Kentucky town, the railroad tracks were a daily reminder of our marginality. Across those tracks were paved streets, stores we could not enter, restaurants we could not eat in, and people we could not look directly in the face. Across those tracks was a world we could work in as maids, as janitors, as prostitutes, as long as it was in a service capacity. We could enter that world but we could not live there. We had always to return to the margin, to cross the tracks, to shacks and abandoned houses on the edge of town. There were laws to ensure our return. To not return was to risk being punished. Living as we did-on the edge-we developed a particular way of seeing reality. We looked both from the outside in and and from the inside out. We focused our attention on the center as well as on the margin. We understood both. This mode of seeing reminded us of the existence of a whole universe, a main body made up of both margin and center. Our survival depended on an ongoing public awareness of the separation between margin and center and an ongoing private acknowledgment that we were a necessary, vital part of that whole.
  • I feel that segregation is totally unchristian, and that it is against everything the Christian religion stands for.
    • Martin Luther King, Jr., in his letter to Sally Canada (19 September 1956), as quoted in The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr (1992), by Carson & Holloran, Volumes 2-3, p. 373
  • Segregation is a cancer in the body politic which must be removed before our democratic health can be realized. The underlying philosophy of segregation is diametrically opposed to the underlying philosophy of democracy and Christianity and all the sophisms of the logicians cannot make them lie down together. We must make it clear that in our struggle to end this thing called segregation, we are not struggling for ourselves alone. We are not struggling only to free seventeen million Negroes. The festering sore of segregation debilitates the white man as well as the Negro. We are struggling to save the soul of America. We are struggling to save America in this very important decisive hour of her history
    • Martin Luther King, Jr., Keep Moving from this Mountain – Founders Day Address at the Sisters Chapel, Spelman College (11 April 1960)
  • We must continue to break down the barrier of segregation. We must resist all forms of racial injustice. This resistance must always be on the highest level of dignity and discipline. It must never degenerate to the crippling level of violence.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr., The Rising Tide of Racial Consciousnes (1960) Address at the Golden Anniversary Conference of the National Urban League, 6 September 1960, New York, N.Y [1]
  • As a preacher... I must admit that I have gone through those moments when I was greatly disappointed with the church and what it has done in this period of social change. We must face the fact that in America, the church is still the most segregated major institution in America. At 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand and sing and Christ has no east or west, we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation. This is tragic. Nobody of honesty can overlook this. Now, I'm sure that if the church had taken a stronger stand all along, we wouldn't have many of the problems that we have. The first way that the church can repent, the first way that it can move out into the arena of social reform is to remove the yoke of segregation from its own body. Now, I'm not saying that society must sit down and wait on a spiritual and moribund church as we've so often seen. I think it should have started in the church, but since it didn't start in the church, our society needed to move on. The church, itself, will stand under the judgement of God. Now that the mistake of the past has been made, I think that the opportunity of the future is to really go out and to transform American society, and where else is there a better place than in the institution that should serve as the moral guardian of the community. The institution that should preach brotherhood and make it a reality within its own body.
    • Martin Luther King, Jr., "Social Justice and the Emerging New Age" address at the Herman W. Read Fieldhouse, Western Michigan University (18 December 1963)
  • Segregation was wrong when it was forced by white people, and I believe it is still wrong when it is requested by black people.
  • I have the hatred of apartheid in my bones; and most of all, I detest the segregation or separation of Language and Literature. I do not care which of them you think White.
    • J.R.R. Tolkien, "Valedictory Address to the University of Oxford," June 5, 1959, reprinted in Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Monsters and the Critics, London: Harper Collins (2006), p. 238. ISBN 026110263X A native of South Africa, Tolkien had been a professor at Oxford since 1925. Earlier in his address he explained his objection to what he considered the "false" separation of "Language" and "Literature" in the study of English.
  • There was a mass lynching in the town of Shubuta where the highway and the railroad cross the Chickasawhay River. Some parts of the incident were written up in the northern newspapers. No one was ever charged with the crime, although the local members of the Ku Klux Klan were well known. Five men and four women were hung, their feet dangling just inches above the river's muddy waters. Such was Mississippi in those times. The only thing a Black man or woman had to do to get lynched was not move off the sidewalk for "Miss Ann" or "Mr. Charlie." A Black must never be caught drinking from a "White Only" fountain, or making the mistake of using the front door instead of the back door. Stealing a chicken or a pig was very dangerous. Being caught at this could get you twenty years on the chain gang. If you were Black in Mississippi, lightning would surely strike sooner or later.
    • James Yates, Mississippi to Madrid: Memoir of a Black American in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (1989), p. 20
  • It was about this time that I quit school. It seemed useless somehow to keep on going. At best, I would end up with a third-rate education, qualifying me for only the worst kinds of jobs, that is, if I didn't cross the wrong white man at the wrong time and get myself killed. After the incidents at Shubuta I had only one obsession. That was to get up North to magic places where I'd heard there was some freedom, and where white folks didn't shoot you, lynch you, and insult you every day. Most of the young fellows I knew felt the same way. We picked and chopped cotton and fed the hogs and cows, and dreamed of that wonderful day when we'd head North.
    • James Yates, Mississippi to Madrid: Memoir of a Black American in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (1989), p. 22-23
  • The Bilbo family's roots go far back in the history of Mississippi. With the end of slavery, they emerged on the political scene as the strong arm of the plantation owners. Theodore Gilmore Bilbo moved up the latter in political circles and became a United States Senator from the Senate of Mississippi. He became notorious in his filibustering against any bill in the Senate which would make life better for the millions of Blacks who lived in the South. Thousands of Blacks left the plantations and emigrated north hoping for a better life. When the southern establishment could not keep the Blacks down on the farm, their political arm in Congress, Senator Bilbo, proposed that we deport sixteen million Blacks back to Africa. I lived in a state ruled by Bilbo and by Ku Klux Klanners, who committed against Back people some of the most vicious acts imaginable. During my last five years in Mississippi, 1917 to 1922, more than fifty Blacks were lynched. This number would be doubled if the great waters of the Mississippi River could reveal the bodies hidden there. I was a witness to some of these lynchings. Thousands of Black men escaped being lynched but were given life sentences on the Mississippi chain gang. They died a slow death of torture, due to people like Bilbo. Black soldiers returning home from World War I were imprisoned for disobeying orders by not discarding their uniforms within the three-day limit set by the local authorities.
    • James Yates, Mississippi to Madrid: Memoir of a Black American in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (1989), p. 27-28
  • The lieutenant tried to stay awake. He rolled around in his seat and asked, "And America, is it true they hang Blacks from trees there?" For some reason this question embarrassed me, but I had to reply, "Yes." I could have told him about the National Guardsman in Springfield who tried to kick my eye out, or of the detective on the freight train who stomped on my hand, but I didn't. I would have explained that my family was in a kind of concentration camp, too, although they were not restrained by barbed wire. Our wire was invisible except where it manifested itself in signs like "White Only," and where it erupted into a lynching. I could have said that, but I didn't.
    • James Yates, Mississippi to Madrid: Memoir of a Black American in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (1989), p. 133

External linksEdit

Wikipedia has an article about: