Segregation in America

Segregation in America documents how millions of white Americans joined a mass movement of committed, unwavering, and often violent opposition to the Civil Rights Movement. EJI believes that understanding this mass opposition to racial equality, integration, and civil rights is central to confronting the continuing challenges of racial inequality today.

Overview

Segregation in America documents a critical piece of American history that has been too often overlooked. The U.S. is still compromised by widespread racial bias and bigotry. False narratives of racial difference marginalize and exclude many communities of color and black and brown people are burdened with a presumption of guilt and dangerousness that is evident in many ways.

White Americans concentrated in the South and influential throughout the country conducted a widespread, organized, and determined campaign to defend segregation and white supremacy. Racist politicians enjoyed support from the majority of white voters; the Ku Klux Klan claimed many of the South’s most prominent and powerful citizens as members; and perpetrators of vicious attacks on black people were regularly acquitted by all-white juries.

Opposition to civil rights was led by elected officials, journalists, and community leaders who shared racist ideologies, shut down public schools and parks to prevent integration, and encouraged violence against civil rights activists. Segregation in America profiles segregationist leaders who were not shamed or banished but repeatedly won re-election to the highest political offices. Segregation in America makes the case that our failure to repudiate segregationists and their ideologies allowed racial bias to remain unchallenged in many modern institutions.

The Confederate iconography that saturates our American landscape has gained national attention in recent years, but many Americans do not realize that scores of Confederate monuments were installed in the 1950s and ’60s as part of the mass opposition to civil rights and racial equality. Many segregationists used Confederate symbols to brand themselves as brave protectors of their culture and champions of the struggle for states’ rights—an identity that persists today. EJI created an interactive map with details and images of more than 1500 Confederate monuments across the U.S., including dozens outside the South.

America’s history of racial inequality continues to haunt us. Many of the issues we face today are shadowed by an underlying narrative of racial difference and bias that compromise our progress.  Our nation, now more than ever, is in desperate need of an era of truth and justice. We must first tell the truth about our past before we can overcome it.

How to cite

Equal Justice Initiative, “Segregation in America” (2018).