Separate Is Not Equal - Brown v. Board of Education

Smithsonian National Museum of American History Behring Center

Segregated America
  • Promise of Freedom
  • White Only
  • Separate but Equal
  • The Supreme Court
The Battleground
Legal Campaign
Five Communities Change a Nation
The Decision
Back to White Only Sign, For Rent to Colored

Jim Crow Laws

“It shall be unlawful for a negro and white person to play together or in company with each other in any game of cards or dice, dominoes or checkers.”
—Birmingham, Alabama, 1930

“Marriages are void when one party is a white person and the other is possessed of one-eighth or more negro, Japanese, or Chinese blood.”
—Nebraska, 1911

“Separate free schools shall be established for the education of children of African descent; and it shall be unlawful for any colored child to attend any white school, or any white child to attend a colored school.”
—Missouri, 1929

“All railroads carrying passengers in the state (other than street railroads) shall provide equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races, by providing two or more passenger cars for each passenger train, or by dividing the cars by a partition, so as to secure separate accommodations.”
—Tennessee, 1891

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Restrictive signs

Restrictive signs

Restrictive signs sprang up across the southern and western landscape. They were constant and humiliating reminders with a common message—“stay in your place.”

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Signs around the country

Signs around the country

The movement for racial separation reached far beyond the South and targeted many people besides African Americans. White communities across the country erected various kinds of barriers between themselves and other racial and ethnic groups.
Restricted real-estate covenant

Restricted real-estate covenant

In communities across the country, property owners signed agreements called restrictive covenants. These contracts barred African Americans and sometimes other groups-including Jews, Asians, and Latinos-from many neighborhoods. In this covenant from Arlington County, Virginia, in the 1940s, the purchasers agreed never to sell their house to "persons of any race other than the white Caucasian Race."
Photo of Housing development with sign

Housing development with sign

Los Angeles housing development, about 1950
(Courtesy of Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research)

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