Segregation and Discrimination

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Segregation and Discrimination

Main idea
Racial discrimination ran through American society in the
late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Why It Matters Now

Modern American society continues to face the problems
caused by racism and discrimination.

Terms and Names

racial discrimination Jim Crow segregation
Plessy v. Ferguson Booker T. Washington W. E. B. Du Bois
NAACP Ida B. Wells
Racism Causes Discrimination
Racist attitudes had been developing in America since the introduction of slavery. The low social rank held by slaves led many whites to believe that whites were superior to blacks. Most whites held similar attitudes toward Asians, Native Americans, and Latin Americans. Even most scientists of the day believed that whites were superior to nonwhites. However, in these days, no scientist believes such a thing.
These attitudes led whites to discriminate against nonwhites across the country. The most obvious example of racial discrimination was in the South. Southern blacks had their first task of political power during Reconstruction. But, when Reconstruction ended in 1877, Southern states began to restrict African Americans’ rights.

Segregation Expands in the South
One way for whites to weaken African-American political power was to restrict voting rights. For example, Southern whites passed laws that set up literacy, or reading, tests and poll taxes to prevent African Americans from voting. White officials made sure that blacks failed literacy tests by giving unfair exams. For example, white officials sometimes gave blacks tests written in Latin. Poll taxes kept many blacks from voting because they didn’t have enough cash to pay. Such laws threatened to prevent poor whites from voting, too. To keep them from losing the vote, several Southern generals added grandfather clauses to their constitutions. Grandfather clauses stated that a man could vote if he, or an ancestor, such as a grandfather, had been eligible to vote before 1867. Before that date, most African Americans, free or enslaved, did not have the right to vote. Whites could use the grandfather clause to protect their voting rights. Blacks could not.
In addition to voting restrictions, African Americans faced Jim Crow laws. Jim Crow laws were meant to enforce segregation, or separation, of white and black people in public places. As a result, separate schools, trolley seats, and restrooms were common throughout the South.

(“Jim Crow” was a character in a minstrel show who did a song-and-dance routine with the chorus “Jump, Jim Crow!” The name eventually came to be a put-down term for “African American” and was used as a label for the new segregation laws.)

Plessy v. Ferguson
African Americans resisted segregation, but they had little power to stop it. In 1892, Homer Plessy, an African American, sued a railroad company, arguing that segregated seating violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to “equal protection of the laws.”
In 1896, the case of Plessy v. Ferguson reached the Supreme Court. The Court ruled against Plessy. It argued that “separate but equal” facilities did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. This decision allowed Southern states to maintain segregated institutions.
But the separate facilities were not equal. White-controlled governments and companies allowed the facilities for African Americans to become run-down. African Americans would have to organize to fight for equality.
(Homer Plessy - In 1890, Louisiana passed a law requiring separate compartments in railway cars for whites and African Americans. Homer Plessy, a shoemaker, joined a committee of African Americans who planned to test the constitutionality of the law. Plessy, who claimed to be one-eighth African American, sat in the “white” car for a train trip from New Orleans to Covington, Louisiana, and refused to move. He was arrested and then proceeded to take his case through the Louisiana courts and finally to the Supreme Court.)
African Americans Organize
Booker T. Washington was an early leader in the effort to achieve equality. He had been born into slavery. But, after the Civil War, he became a teacher. In 1881, he founded Tuskegee Institute in Alabama to help African Americans learn trades and gain economic strength. Washington hired talented teachers and scholars, such as George Washington Carver.
To gain white support for Tuskegee, Washington did not openly challenge segregation. As he said in a 1895 speech in Atlanta, in “purely social matters” whites and blacks “can be as separate as the fingers, yet on as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.”
However, some blacks disagreed with Washington’s views. W. E. B. DuBois encouraged African Americans to reject segregation.
In 1909, Du Bois and other reformers founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored people, or NAACP. The NAACP played a major role in ending segregation in the 20th century.
Violence in the South and North
Besides discrimination, African Americans in the South also faced violence. The Ku Klux Klan, which first appeared during Reconstruction, used violence to keep blacks from challenging segregation. More than 2,500 African Americans were lynched between 1885 and 1900.
Ida B, Wells, an African American journalist from Memphis, led the fight against lynching. After three of her friends were lynched in 1892, she mounted an anti-lynching campaign in her newspaper. When whites called for Wells herself to be lynched, she moved to Chicago. But she continued to work against lynching.
Like Wells, many blacks moved north to escape discrimination. Public facilities there were not segregated by law. But Northern whites still discriminated against blacks. Blacks could not get housing in white neighborhoods and usually were denied good jobs. Anti-black feelings among whites sometimes led to violence. In 1908, whites in Springfield, Illinois, attacked blacks who had moved there. The whites lynched two blacks within a half mile of Abraham Lincoln’s home.

Racism in the West
Chinese immigrants who came to the West in the 1800’s also faced severe discrimination. Chinese laborers received lower wages than whites for the same work. Sometimes, Chinese workers faced violence. In 1885, white workers in Rock Springs, Wyoming, refused to work in the same mine as Chinese workers. The whites stormed through the Chinese part of town, shooting Chinese people and burning buildings. During the attack, 28 Chinese people were killed and 15 were wounded.
At the same time, Mexicans and African Americans who came to the American Southwest were forced into peonage. (pronounced as PEE-uh-nihj). In this system of labor, people are forced to work until they have paid off debts. Congress outlawed peonage in 1867, but some workers were still forced to work to repay debts. In 1911, the U. S. Supreme Court declared such labor to be the same as peonage. As a result, the Court struck down such forms of labor as a violation of the Thirteenth Amendment.
Despite the problems caused by racism, many Americans had new opportunities to enjoy their lives at the turn of the century.

Copy the chart on loose leaf paper. Use the chart to study the people and events related to racial discrimination at the turn of the century.



1. Homer Plessy 2. Ida B. Wells 3. Booker T. Washington 4. W. E. B. Du Bois


1896 - Plessy v. Ferguson 1908 - Springfield, Illinois - race riot 1909 - founding of the NAACP 1885 - Rock Springs massacre

Answer the following questions on loose leaf paper using complete sentences for your answers.
1. What were Jim Crow laws?
2. How did discrimination against African Americans in the North differ from discrimination in the South?
3. What did Chinese immigrants and Mexican immigrants have in common?

Define the following words and terms on loose leaf paper.
1. racial discrimination
2. Jim Crow
3. segregation
4. Plessy v. Ferguson

Identify the following people:
1. Booker T. Washington
2. W. E. B. Du Bois
4. Ida B. Wells

extra credit: Read the following passage about Booker T. Washington, or W. E. B. Du Bois and answer the questions that follow: (or do both!)

Booker T. Washington
Booker T. Washington believed that economic progress, not civil and political rights was the key to improving the lives of African Americans. Unlike Du Bois, Washington believed that African Americans could benefit more from practical, vocational training than from a liberal arts education. Washington’s approach won support from influential white leaders - from John D. Rockefeller to Theodore Roosevelt, who invited him to the White House in 1901, causing an uproar among segregationists.

Answer the question in at least a complete sentence on loose leaf paper:
What is vocational training and why do you think Washington’s idea won support from influential white leaders?

W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and graduated from Fisk University .
W. E. B. Du Bois grew up in a middle class home. He went to college and earned a his doctorate degree at Harvard University in 1895. He was the first African American to to this. Du Bois became one of the most distinguished scholars of the 20th century.
In 1903, he publish a book called The Souls of Black Folk in which he said that the greatest force for human progress was “the power of the ballot.” Committed to political action, Du Bois criticized Booker T. Washington’s approach, calling it a materialistic “gospel of work and money.”
Du Bois fought against segregation. He believed that the best way to end it would be to have educated African Americans lead the fight. He referred to this group of educated African Americans as the “Talented Tenth” - the most educated 10 percent of African Americans.

Answer the question in a complete sentence:
Why do you think Du Bois believed the Talented Tenth should lead the fight against segregation?
Directory: yaoleechena -> 1877-1917 -> jimcrow
jimcrow -> Of Mr. Booker T. Washington
1877-1917 -> Federico Romero (Università di Bologna) 1898: History and Memory
1877-1917 -> The Cubans gained independence, but the Filipinos did not. In both instances the intervention of the United States was the culminating event
1877-1917 -> Progressivism and World War I
1877-1917 -> Haymarket and Hull House by Drew VandeCreek, Ph. D
1877-1917 -> A. P. U. S. History Notes Chapter 33: “The War to End War” ~ 1917 1918 ~ I. War by Act of Germany On January 22, 1917, Woodrow Wilson
jimcrow -> The Powers of Congress to Enforce the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments The Issue: How far is Congress, under the Civil War Amendments, allowed to go in regulating what it sees as violations of equal protection, due process

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