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Separate but equal?

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Separate but equal? 'Separate but equal' was an expression often used in the early 20th Century to describe segregation - keeping black and white people apart. Segregation was made legal in 1896, but had actually been going on for some time before that. White Americans living in the South (13 states in the Southeast USA) were determined to keep the black population under control. So states in the South passed laws - even though the US is governed by Federal Law, each of the 50 separate states can make their own laws that only affect that state. Southern states such as Texas, Florida and Alabama passed laws between 1870 and 1900 which were known as Jim Crow laws, and kept black and white people apart. The Federal Government in the more powerful North of the country didn't like Jim Crow laws but did nothing stop them. Then on June 7th 1892 a black shoemaker called Homer Plessy was jailed for sitting in a white seat on the East Louisiana Railway. ...read more.


And of course, the facilities provided for them were very rarely equal. One black man said, '"They would find two sets of doors, two kinds of facilities from drinking fountains to schools. One set was White, the other was Black, one set was clean and well cared for, the other was usually broken, neglected by the White authorities, shamefully unequal". This summed up how segregation made life for blacks in the South. They had to put up with inferior conditions in everything they had, while the whites would have nice parks, nice schools, and nice toilets. They saw the 'separate but equal' ruling as a decision that made it legal for whites to discriminate against them - they knew that white Southern states wouldn't provide equal facilities. It seemed there was nothing they could do about it - their votes had been taken away by Jim Crow laws, so they couldn't even elect someone to oppose this segregation. States made up laws and qualifications that black people needed to vote, and these were generally impossible. ...read more.


They had to live in a world where everything they had was inferior to what the whites next door might have, where they were judged and usually condemned just by the colour of their skin. Homer Plessy, the man who first opposed Jim Crow laws was in fact ? white, but he was deemed below the white man who wanted his seat just because his skin was a little darker. Segregation laws would continue for over 50 years, and until they were abolished, black Americans would always have a lesser existence to whites. They were never thought of as equal to the whites, and the lives they were forced to live by Jim Crow laws were certainly not equal either. One black man summed it up when he said, "In reality a lot of effort was made to keep us separate, but not much was done to make us equal." His words undoubtedly paint a more realistic picture of Jim Crow laws than those of the Supreme Court or President Wilson, and tell us the harsh reality of segregation - they were separate, but definitely not equal. ...read more.

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