33 Photos Of Segregation That Show A Country Divided By Race
By All That's Interesting | Checked By John Kuroski
Published August 23, 2017
Updated August 10, 2022
While these photos might seem far removed from our present, the legacy of segregation in America can still be seen today.
African-American children look through the fence at a playground legally forbidden from them. Alabama. 1956.Gordon Parks/Getty Images
Two men drink from segregated water fountains. Location and date unspecified.
Elizabeth Eckford ignores the hostile screams and stares of fellow students on her first day of school. She was one of the nine African-American students whose integration into Arkansas' Little Rock Central High School was ordered by a federal court following legal action by the NAACP. September 6, 1957.Bettmann/Getty Images
During the Freedom Riders' travels throughout the South to protest segregated busses, one bus was set on fire by an angry mob. Luckily, everyone on the bus was able to escape without injury. Location unspecified. 1961.Bettmann/Getty Images
Fifteen-year-old Johnny Gray points a warning finger at one of the two white boys who tried to force him and his sister, Mary, from the sidewalk as they walked to school in Little Rock, Arkansas on September 16, 1958.Bettmann/Getty Images
Alabama Governor George Wallace stands at the door of the University of Alabama in protest of integration. June 11, 1963.Warren K. Leffler/Wikimedia Commons
The spring of 1963 brought protest against police brutality and discrimination to Birmingham, Alabama. Police chief Bull Connor famously turned fire hoses on protesters, and used attack dogs and his own fists to physically beat unarmed people – including women and children.Charles Moore/Getty Images
A nervous young girl sits in the front row. She is the only black girl in her newly integrated class. Tennessee. 1957.
Don Cravens/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
Benny Oliver, former Jackson, Mississippi policeman, viciously kicks Memphis Norman, an African-American student from nearby Wiggins who had been waiting along with two other students to be served at a segregated lunch counter. The rumor of possible civil rights actions in the town caused onlookers to cheer the beating. May 28, 1963.Bettmann/Getty Images
Demonstrators protest against the integration of Little Rock, Arkansas' Central High School. 1959.Wikimedia Commons
[Original caption] "Despite a court ruling on desegregating buses, white and blacks continue to be divided by their own choice." Texas. 1956.Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
A classroom sits nearly empty after white students refuse to attend their newly desegregated school. New York. 1964.Bettmann/Getty Images
Durham, North Carolina. 1940.Jack Delano/PhotoQuest/Getty Images
African-American students arrive at Baltimore, Maryland's newly integrated Southern High School as white students walk behind with a sign reading "Southern don't want negroes." 1954.Bettmann/Getty Images
Six-year-old Ruby Bridges is escorted from school by US Marshals. Bridges was the first African-American child to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana during the New Orleans school desegregation crisis in 1960.Wikimedia Commons
A white woman hurriedly bars the way as African-American people were about to enter the lunch counter of this downtown department store in Memphis to protest the segregation policy of the establishment. 1961.Bettmann/Getty Images
Kenyan student David Mbiti encounters segregation for the first time in a bus terminal. Georgia. 1960. Ted Russell/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
A boy drinks from a "colored" water fountain in Halifax, North Carolina. 1938.John Vachon/Library of Congress
An African-American military policeman on a motorcycle in front of the "colored" MP entrance. Columbus, Georgia. 1942.Wikimedia Commons
Atlanta, Georgia. 1956.Bettmann/Getty Images
New York. Date unspecified.New York Public Library
"White Only" taxis. Georgia. 1962.Warren K Leffler/PhotoQuest/Getty Images
Inside an all-black classroom. Virginia. 1953.
Hank Walker/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
From 1959 to 1961, there were no public school facilities in Prince Edward County, Virginia for the estimated 1,700 black children there. The 1,400 white children attended private schools financed by state, county, and private contributions made in lieu of tax payments. This photo shows black students attending school in a one-room shack.Bettmann/Getty Images
A young man drinks from a "colored" at a streetcar terminal. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 1939.Russell Lee/Library of Congress
Instead of employing a separate entrance, some entire establishments were simply designated for "colored people.” Mississippi. Circa 1937.Dorothea Lange/Library of Congress
To gain access to the "colored" entrance of this theater, you’d better be able to ascend an outdoor flight of stairs. Mississippi. 1939.
Marion Post Wolcott/Wikimedia Commons
A sign directly opposite the Sojourner Truth homes, a new U.S. federal housing project in Detroit, Michigan. A riot was caused by white neighbors' attempts to prevent African-American tenants from moving in. 1942.Arthur S. Siegel/Library of Congress
Demonstrators picketing over lunch counter segregation. Georgia. 1960.Donald Uhrbrock/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
A white teenager tears up the sign of a black protestor picketing variety stores protesting their segregation policies. Tallahassee, Florida. 1960.Underwood Archives/Getty Image
A boy watches as crowds of segregationist demonstrators walk to Arkansas' Little Rock Central High to protest the first African-American students in a white school. 1957.Wikimedia Commons
A woman and a child, both of whom refused to identify themselves, march in front of the Arkansas Capitol in Little Rock in protest of the scheduled integration of this city's high schools. 1957.Bettmann/Getty Images
Soldiers escort the first African-American students to integrate Little Rock, Arkansas' Central High School on September 24, 1957.Bettmann/Getty Images
Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Condoleezza Rice are just some of the names that Americans tend to offer when suggesting that the United States is long past the days of Jim Crow. While such a suggestion is certainly debatable and in many ways demonstrably untrue, what isn't debatable is the fact that simply in terms of time, Jim Crow is not that far removed from the present day.
In reality, some of the last of the major legal restrictions on African-Americans were torn down less than just 50 years ago with the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which disallowed racial discrimination in terms of housing opportunities. The landmark Voting Right Act of 1965, which did away with most racial discrimination at the polls, came just a few years earlier, as did the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
But for nearly a century before those three acts were passed, the Jim Crow era of racial segregation in America reigned supreme.
When the Jim Crow laws were put into effect following the Reconstruction period after the Civil War, African-Americans' status, especially in the South, was defined largely as "separate but equal."
However, as the photos above suggest, racial segregation in America was indeed separate — but not equal at all. Instead, the Jim Crow laws led to discrimination within almost every facet of segregated society, in ways that can still be felt today.
Since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, legislators and businesses have used less blatantly racist laws and policies to effectively uphold segregation in America. These include policies like "redlining," a policy that continued into the 1980s in which African-American neighborhoods were singled out to receive fewer loans, worse insurance policies, and less healthcare.