De Jure Segregation: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:02 Definition
  • 0:55 Racial De Jure Segregation
  • 2:40 Religious De Jure Segregation
  • 3:20 Gender De Jure Segregation
  • 3:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephen Benz

Stephen has taught history, journalism, sociology, and political science courses at multiple levels, including the middle school, high school and college levels.

De jure segregation refers to the legal separation of groups in society. In this article, we look at famous examples and types of segregation in world history.

Definition of De Jure Segregation

On February 11th, 1990, Nelson Mandela emerged from his prison cell for the first time in nearly 27 years. Greeting him was a massive crowd and droves of media broadcasting the moment worldwide.

What was Mandela's crime that caused him to be put in prison for so long? Protesting against the apartheid system that had defined South Africa for nearly half a century. The apartheid system that existed in South Africa is an example of a de jure segregation system.

De jure segregation refers to the legal separation of groups of people based on the law. The term 'de jure' translates roughly into English as 'according to the law.' A close relative of de jure segregation is de facto segregation. In de facto segregation, people are not separated legally but remain separate from each other as a matter of fact.

Racial De Jure Segregation

Perhaps the most infamous form of de jure segregation has been racial de jure segregation. Under this system, different racial classes are separated from one another by law. Public areas cannot be shared by different racial classes at all. A classical example of this system is the aforementioned South African apartheid system. This system was started by the National Party of South Africa and limited the interaction between white South Africans and non-white South Africans.

According to the apartheid system, South Africans were divided into four groups - white, colored, Indian, and black. An estimated 3.5 million non-whites were forced to move out of white neighborhoods because of the apartheid system. To say the least, the system affected every aspect of South African life. The system was formally repealed in 1991 and officially came to an end with the 1994 presidential elections, the first elections in which blacks were allowed to vote. Nelson Mandela won the presidency in that election.

Another example of a de jure segregation system was the American South during the Jim Crow era. Jim Crow laws were laws set up in the South after the end of the Civil War to separate blacks from whites. Blacks were not allowed to ride in the same part of the bus as whites, drink from the same water fountains, attend the same schools, or enter into private restaurants that served whites only. African-American leaders, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jessie Jackson, protested this segregation system, bringing their protests to the federal government. Segregation was eventually outlawed with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Supreme Court rulings such as Brown v. Board of Education.

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