De Facto Segregation: Definition & Examples Video

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Approaches to Political Theory: Normative and Empirical

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:57 De Jure vs. De Facto…
  • 2:35 Brown v. Board of Education
  • 3:30 De Facto Segregation
  • 3:56 Law Enforcement & Violence
  • 4:31 Residential…
  • 6:06 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Mark Pearcy
When the Civil War ended in 1865, so did slavery; but segregation, the practice of separating the races in America through a variety of means, was born. Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made the practice illegal, de facto segregation continued to separate African American and white Americans in everyday life.

De Facto Segregation and Racism

In America, we like to believe that everyone has an equal chance to succeed and thrive, as long as they work hard enough and have a little luck. At the same time, most of us understand that, for hundreds of years, a great many people in our society haven't had the same chances and opportunities. Probably the best-known impediment to success for a large group of Americans was slavery, which existed in the U.S. from the early 17th century until 1865.

Slavery was officially abolished at the end of the Civil War; the after effects of that institution, however, lasted for much longer, both legally and in the social barriers erected in everyday life. These barriers, known generically as segregation, were also supposed to have been eliminated from the U.S. Some have, but the reality of segregation, known as de facto segregation, has lasted much longer.

De Jure vs. De Facto Segregation

The first thing to understand about de facto segregation is that it has nothing to do with the law. Since the institution of slavery itself, as it existed in colonial and pre-Civil War America, was a system that subordinated one race to another, segregationist laws were not established until after the war.

Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order and presidential proclamation, was supposed to free slaves in the states to which it applied. So Southern states, which were covered by the order and unwilling to conform to the demands for racial equality, used segregation to create new restrictions. Southern segregation laws, generally referred to as Jim Crow laws, were named after a popular minstrel show in the 19th century. They are the best-known example of what's called de jure segregation, which means segregation concerning the law.

The use of the legal system to create a permanent level of inequality occurred across the South. Newly freed African-Americans were barred from voting and holding office and restricted in relation to both property rights and in public discourse. De jure segregation prevented black citizens from attaining anything like economic independence, creating a macabre repetition of the conditions of slavery.

In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled in a case called Plessy v. Ferguson that such legal practices were acceptable under the Constitution so long as the races were provided for equally. This principle, known as separate but equal, became the foundation for de jure segregation across the country.

Brown v. Board of Education

In 1954, after almost 60 years of institutionalized segregation, the Supreme Court reversed itself. In Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the Court ruled that segregation by law was inherently unconstitutional. Suddenly, de jure segregation was dead.

Except, of course, it wasn't. Because the court had ruled that segregation had to end 'with all deliberate speed,' most Southern states dragged out the process of integration as much as possible, often clashing with the federal government in the process. This went on for over a decade, until 1964, when the Civil Rights Act ended once and for all segregationist laws in the South.

De Facto Segregation

Though segregation was legally ended in 1964, the reality of segregation didn't go away. This type of segregation was known as de facto, meaning 'in practice,' and it was expressed through the social customs and expectations enforced by the white authorities. The law enforced customs established under de jure segregation, like the practice of compelling African Americans to surrender their seats on city buses when white passengers needed a seat, sometimes violently.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account