Racial segregation

Racial segregation is the separation of people into racial or other ethnic groups in daily life. It may apply to activities such as eating in a restaurant, drinking from a water fountain, using a public toilet, attending school, going to the movies, riding on a bus, or in the rental or purchase of a home[1] or of hotel rooms. Segregation is defined by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance as "the act by which a (natural or legal) person separates other persons on the basis of one of the enumerated grounds without an objective and reasonable justification, in conformity with the proposed definition of discrimination. As a result, the voluntary act of separating oneself from other people on the basis of one of the enumerated grounds does not constitute segregation".[2] According to the UN Forum on Minority Issues, "The creation and development of classes and schools providing education in minority languages should not be considered impermissible segregation, if the assignment to such classes and schools is of a voluntary nature".[3]

Racial segregation is generally outlawed, but may exist de facto through social norms, even when there is no strong individual preference for it, as suggested by Thomas Schelling's models of segregation and subsequent work.[4] Segregation may be maintained by means ranging from discrimination in hiring and in the rental and sale of housing to certain races to vigilante violence (such as lynchings). Generally, a situation that arises when members of different races mutually prefer to associate and do business with members of their own race would usually be described as separation or de facto separation of the races rather than segregation. In the United States, segregation was mandated by law in some states and came with anti-miscegenation laws (prohibitions against interracial marriage).[5] Segregation, however, often allowed close contact in hierarchical situations, such as allowing a person of one race to work as a servant for a member of another race. Segregation can involve spatial separation of the races, and mandatory use of different institutions, such as schools and hospitals by people of different races.


Wherever there have been multiracial communities, there has been racial segregation. Only areas with extensive miscegenation, or mixing, such as Hawaii and Brazil, despite some social stratification, seem to be exempt.[6]

French Algeria

Following its conquest of Ottoman controlled Algeria in 1830, for well over a century France maintained colonial rule in the territory which has been described as "quasi-apartheid".[7] The colonial law of 1865 allowed Arab and Berber Algerians to apply for French citizenship only if they abandoned their Muslim identity; Azzedine Haddour argues that this established "the formal structures of a political apartheid".[8] Camille Bonora-Waisman writes that, "[i]n contrast with the Moroccan and Tunisian protectorates", this "colonial apartheid society" was unique to Algeria.[9]

This "internal system of apartheid" met with considerable resistance from the Muslims affected by it, and is cited as one of the causes of the 1954 insurrection and ensuing independence war.[10]


"Nur für deutsche Fahrgäste" ("Only for German passengers") on the tram number 8 in German-occupied Kraków, Poland.
German warning in occupied Poland 1939 – "No entrance for Poles!"

In fifteenth-century north-east Germany, people of Wendish, i.e. Slavic, origin were not allowed to join some guilds.[11] According to Wilhelm Raabe, "down into the eighteenth century no German guild accepted a Wend."[12]

German praise for America's institutional racism, previously found in Hitler's Mein Kampf, was continuous throughout the early 1930s, and radical Nazi lawyers were advocates of the use of American models.[13] Race based U.S. citizenship laws and anti-miscegenation laws directly inspired the two principal Nuremberg Laws—the Citizenship Law and the Blood Law.[13] The ban on interracial marriage (anti-miscegenation) prohibited sexual relations and marriages between people classified as "Aryan" and "non-Aryan." Such relationships were called Rassenschande (race defilement). At first the laws were aimed primarily at Jews but were later extended to "Gypsies, Negroes and their bastard offspring".[14][15][16] Aryans found guilty could face incarceration in a concentration camp, while non-Aryans could face the death penalty.[17] To preserve the so-called purity of the German blood, after the war began, the Nazis extended the race defilement law to include all foreigners (non-Germans).[18]

Under the General Government of occupied Poland in 1940, the Nazis divided the population into different groups, each with different rights, food rations, allowed housing strips in the cities, public transportation, etc. In an effort to split Polish identity they attempted to establish ethnic divisions of Kashubians and Gorals (Goralenvolk), based on these groups' alleged "Germanic component."

During the 1930s and 1940s, Jews in Nazi-controlled states were made to wear yellow ribbons or stars of David, and were, along with Romas (Gypsies), discriminated against by the racial laws. Jewish doctors were not allowed to treat Aryan patients nor were Jewish professors permitted to teach Aryan pupils. In addition, Jews were not allowed to use any public transportation, besides the ferry, and were able to shop only from 3–5 pm in Jewish stores. After Kristallnacht ("The Night of Broken Glass"), the Jews were fined 1,000,000 marks for damages done by the Nazi troops and SS members.

Women behind the barbed wire fence of the Lvov Ghetto in occupied Poland. Spring 1942

Jews and Roma were subjected to genocide as "undesirable" racial groups in the Holocaust. The Nazis established ghettos to confine Jews and sometimes Romas into tightly packed areas of the cities of Eastern Europe, turning them into de facto concentration camps. The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest of these ghettos, with 400,000 people. The Łódź Ghetto was the second largest, holding about 160,000.[19]

Between 1939 and 1945, at least 1.5 million Polish citizens were transported to the Reich for forced labour (in all, about 12 million forced laborers were employed in the German war economy inside Nazi Germany).[20][21] Although Nazi Germany also used forced laborers from Western Europe, Poles, along with other Eastern Europeans viewed as racially inferior,[22] were subject to deeper discriminatory measures. They were forced to wear a yellow with purple border and letter "P" (for Polen/Polish) cloth identifying tag sewn to their clothing, subjected to a curfew, and banned from public transportation.

While the treatment of factory workers or farm hands often varied depending on the individual employer, Polish laborers as a rule were compelled to work longer hours for lower wages than Western Europeans – in many cities, they were forced to live in segregated barracks behind barbed wire. Social relations with Germans outside work were forbidden, and sexual relations (Rassenschande or "racial defilement") were punishable by death.[23]

Imperial China

Tang dynasty

Several laws enforcing racial segregation of foreigners from Chinese were passed by the Han chinese during the Tang dynasty. In 779 the Tang dynasty issued an edict which forced Uighurs to wear their ethnic dress, stopped them from marrying Chinese females, and banned them from pretending to be Chinese. Chinese disliked Uighurs because they practiced usury. The magistrate who issued the orders may have wanted to protect "purity" in Chinese custom. In 836, when Lu Chun was appointed as governor of Canton, he was disgusted to find Chinese living with foreigners and intermarriage between Chinese and foreigners. Lu enforced separation, banning interracial marriages, and made it illegal for foreigners to own property. Lu Chun believed his principles were just and upright.[24] The 836 law specifically banned Chinese from forming relationships with "Dark peoples" or "People of colour", which was used to describe foreigners, such as "Iranians, Sogdians, Arabs, Indians, Malays, Sumatrans", among others.[25][26]

Qing dynasty

The Qing Dynasty was founded not by the Han Chinese who form the majority of the Chinese population, but the Manchus, who are today an ethnic minority of China. The Manchus were keenly aware of their minority status, however, it was only later in the dynasty that they banned intermarriage.

Han defectors played a massive role in the Qing conquest of China. Han Chinese Generals who defected to the Manchu were often given women from the Imperial Aisin Gioro family in marriage while the ordinary soldiers who defected were given non-royal Manchu women as wives. The Manchu leader Nurhaci married one of his granddaughters to the Ming General Li Yongfang after he surrendered Fushun in Liaoning to the Manchu in 1618.[27][28] Jurchen (Manchu) women married most the Han Chinese defectors in Liaodong.[29] Aisin Gioro women were married to the sons of the Han Chinese Generals Sun Sike (Sun Ssu-k'o), Geng Jimao (Keng Chi-mao), Shang Kexi (Shang K'o-hsi), and Wu Sangui (Wu San-kuei).[30]

A mass marriage of Han Chinese officers and officials to Manchu women numbering 1,000 couples was arranged by Prince Yoto and Hongtaiji in 1632 to promote harmony between the two ethnic groups.[27]

Geng Zhongming, a Han bannerman, was awarded the title of Prince Jingnan, and his son Geng Jingmao managed to have both his sons Geng Jingzhong and Geng Zhaozhong become court attendants under Shunzhi and get married to Aisin Gioro women, with Haoge's (a son of Hong Taiji) daughter marrying Geng Jingzhong and Prince Abatai's (Hong Taiji) granddaughter marrying Geng Zhaozhong.[31]

The Qing differentiated between Han Bannermen and ordinary Han civilians. Han Bannermen were made out of Han Chinese who defected to the Qing up to 1644 and joined the Eight Banners, giving them social and legal privileges in addition to being acculturated to Manchu culture. So many Han defected to the Qing and swelled up the ranks of the Eight Banners that ethnic Manchus became a minority within the Banners, making up only 16% in 1648, with Han Bannermen dominating at 75%.[32][33][34] It was this multi-ethnic force in which Manchus were only a minority, which conquered China for the Qing.[35]

It was Han Chinese Bannermen who were responsible for the successful Qing conquest of China, they made up the majority of governors in the early Qing and were the ones who governed and administered China after the conquest, stabilizing Qing rule.[36] Han Bannermen dominated the post of governor-general in the time of the Shunzhi and Kangxi Emperors, and also the post of governors, largely excluding ordinary Han civilians from the posts.[37]

To promote ethnic harmony, a 1648 decree from the Manchu Shunzhi Emperor allowed Han Chinese civilian men to marry Manchu women from the Banners with the permission of the Board of Revenue if they were registered daughters of officials or commoners or the permission of their banner company captain if they were unregistered commoners, it was only later in the dynasty that these policies allowing intermarriage were done away with.[38][39]

The Qing implemented a policy of segregation between the Bannermen of the Eight Banners (Manchu Bannermen, Mongol Bannermen, Han Bannermen) and Han Chinese civilians[when?]. This ethnic segregation had cultural and economic reasons: intermarriage was forbidden to keep up the Manchu heritage and minimize sinicization. Han Chinese civilians and Mongol civilians were banned from settling in Manchuria.[40] Han civilians and Mongol civilians were banned from crossing into each other's lands. Ordinary Mongol civilians in Inner Mongolia were banned from even crossing into other Mongol Banners. (A banner in Inner Mongolia was an administrative division and not related to the Mongol Bannermen in the Eight Banners)

These restrictions did not apply Han Bannermen, who were settled in Manchuria by the Qing. Han bannermen were differentiated from Han civilians by the Qing and treated differently.

The Qing Dynasty started colonizing Manchuria with Han Chinese later on in the dynasty's rule, but the Manchu area was still separated from modern-day Inner Mongolia by the Outer Willow Palisade, which kept the Manchu and the Mongols in the area separate.

The policy of segregation applied directly to the banner garrisons, most of which occupied a separate walled zone within the cities in which they were stationed. Manchu Bannermen, Han Bannermen, and Mongol Bannermen were separated from the Han civilian population. While the Manchus followed the governmental structure of the preceding Ming dynasty, their ethnic policy dictated that appointments were split between Manchu noblemen and Han Chinese civilian officials who had passed the highest levels of the state examinations, and because of the small number of Manchus, this insured that a large fraction of them would be government officials.


In 1938, the fascist regime led by Benito Mussolini, under pressure from the Nazis, introduced a series of Italian Racial Laws instituting an official segregationist policy in the Italian Empire, especially aimed against Jews. This policy enforced various segregationist norms, like the prohibition for Jews to teach or study in ordinary schools and universities, to own industries reputed of major national interest, to work as journalists, to enter the military, and to wed non-Jews. Some of the immediate consequences of the introduction of the 'provvedimenti per la difesa della razza' (norms for the defence of the race) included many of the best Italian scientists leaving their job, or even Italy. Amongst these, world-renowned physicists Emilio Segrè, Enrico Fermi (whose wife was Jewish), Bruno Pontecorvo, Bruno Rossi, Tullio Levi-Civita, mathematicians Federigo Enriques and Guido Fubini and even the fascist propaganda director, art critic and journalist Margherita Sarfatti, who was one of Mussolini's mistresses. Rita Levi-Montalcini, who would successively win the Nobel Prize for Medicine, was forbidden to work at the university. Albert Einstein, upon approval of the racial law, resigned from honorary membership of the Accademia dei Lincei.

After 1943, when Northern Italy was occupied by the Nazis, Italian Jews were rounded up for the Holocaust.

Jewish segregation

Jews in Europe generally were forced, by decree or by informal pressure, to live in highly segregated ghettos and shtetls.[41] In 1204 the papacy required Jews to segregate themselves from Christians and to wear distinctive clothing.[42] Forced segregation of Jews spread throughout Europe during the 14th and 15th centuries.[43] In the Russian Empire, Jews were restricted to the so-called Pale of Settlement, the Western frontier of the Russian Empire corresponding roughly to the modern-day countries of Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine.[44] By the early 20th century, the majority of European Jews lived in the Pale of Settlement.

Jewish population were confined to mellahs in Morocco beginning from the 15th century. In cities, a mellah was surrounded by a wall with a fortified gateway. In contrast, rural mellahs were separate villages inhabited solely by the Jews.[45]

In the middle of the 19th century, J. J. Benjamin wrote about the life of Persian Jews:

…they are obliged to live in a separate part of town…; for they are considered as unclean creatures… Under the pretext of their being unclean, they are treated with the greatest severity and should they enter a street, inhabited by Mussulmans, they are pelted by the boys and mobs with stones and dirt… For the same reason, they are prohibited to go out when it rains; for it is said the rain would wash dirt off them, which would sully the feet of the Mussulmans… If a Jew is recognized as such in the streets, he is subjected to the greatest insults. The passers-by spit in his face, and sometimes beat him… unmercifully… If a Jew enters a shop for anything, he is forbidden to inspect the goods… Should his hand incautiously touch the goods, he must take them at any price the seller chooses to ask for them... Sometimes the Persians intrude into the dwellings of the Jews and take possession of whatever please them. Should the owner make the least opposition in defense of his property, he incurs the danger of atoning for it with his life... If... a Jew shows himself in the street during the three days of the Katel (Muharram)…, he is sure to be murdered.[46]

Latin America

Spanish colonists created caste systems in Latin American countries based on classification by race and race mixture. An extensive nomenclature developed, including the familiar terms "mulatto", "mestizo", and "zambo" (the latter the origin of "sambo"). The Spanish had practiced a form of caste system in Hispania before their expulsion of the Jews and Muslims. While many Latin American countries have long since rendered the system officially illegal through legislation, usually at the time of independence, prejudice based on degrees of perceived racial distance from European ancestry combined with one's socioeconomic status remain, an echo of the colonial caste system.[47][48]


On 16 May 1940 the Administrasjonsrådet asked Rikskommisariatet why radio receivers had been confiscated from Jews in Norway.[49] That Administrasjonsrådet thereafter "quietly" accepted[49] racial segregation between Norwegian citizens, has been claimed by Tor Bomann-Larsen. Furthermore, he claimed that this segregation "created a precedent. 2 years later (with NS-styret in the ministries of Norway) Norwegian police arrested citizens at the addresses where radios had previously been confiscated from Jews.[49]


Following a dispute over the terms for the granting of full independence, the British self-governing colony of Rhodesia, governed by a predominantly white minority government, unilaterally declared independence in 1965. Led by Prime Minister Ian Smith, it endured as an unrecognized state under white rule for the next 14 years, with majority rule coming in 1979 with the Internal Settlement between Smith's government and moderate black nationalists, the associated multiracial elections and the reconstitution of the country as Zimbabwe Rhodesia, with Bishop Abel Muzorewa at the helm of a coalition cabinet comprising 12 blacks and five whites. This new order also failed to win legitimacy in the eyes of the world, and British control returned to the country in December 1979, following the Lancaster House Agreement. New elections were held in 1980, and Zimbabwe gained recognized independence in April 1980, with Robert Mugabe as prime minister.

Laws enforcing segregation had been around before 1965, although many institutions simply ignored them. One highly publicized legal battle occurred in 1960 involving the opening of a new theatre that was to be open to all races; the proposed unsegregated public toilets at the newly built Reps Theatre in 1959 caused an argument called "The Battle of the Toilets".

South Africa

"Apartheid": sign on Durban beach in English, Afrikaans and Zulu

The apartheid system carried out by Afrikaner minority rule enacted a nationwide social policy "separate development" with the National Party victory in 1948, following the "colour bar"-discriminatory legislation dating back to the beginning of the Union of South Africa and the Boer republics before which, while repressive to black South Africans along with other minorities, had not gone nearly so far.

Apartheid laws can be generally divided into following acts. Firstly, the Population Registration Act in 1950 classified residents in South Africa into four racial groups: "black", "white", "Coloured", and "Indian" and noted their racial identities on their identifications. Secondly, the Group Areas Act in 1950 assigned different regions according to different races. People were forced to live in their corresponding regions and the action of passing the boundaries without a permit was made illegal, extending pass laws that had already curtailed black movement. Thirdly, under the Reservation of Separate Amenities Act in 1953, amenities in public areas, like hospitals, universities and parks, were labeled separately according to particular races. In addition, the Bantu Education Act in 1953 segregated national education in South Africa as well. Additionally, the government of the time enforced the pass laws, which deprived black South Africans of their right to travel freely within their own country. Under this system black people were severely restricted from urban areas, requiring authorisation from a white employer to enter.

Uprisings and protests against apartheid appeared immediately when apartheid arose. As early as 1949, the youth wing of the African National Congress (ANC) advocated the ending of apartheid and suggested fighting against racial segregation by various methods. During the following decades, hundreds of anti-apartheid actions occurred, including those of the Black Consciousness Movement, students' protests, labor strikes, and church group activism etc. In 1991, the Abolition of Racially Based Land Measures Act was passed, repealing laws enforcing racial segregation, including the Group Areas Act.[50] In 1994, Nelson Mandela won in the first multiracial democratic election in South Africa. His success fulfilled the ending of apartheid in South African history.

United States

An African-American youth at a segregated drinking fountain in Halifax, North Carolina, in 1938.

After Jim Crow laws were passed that segregated African Americans and Whites, the lives of those who were negatively affected saw no progress in their quest for equality. Racial segregation was not a new phenomenon, as almost four million blacks had been slaves before the Civil War.[51][52] The laws passed segregated African Americans from Whites. Signs were used to show non whites where they could legally walk, talk, drink, rest, or eat.[52] For those places that were racially mixed, blacks had to wait until all White customers were dealt with.[52] Rules were also enforced that restricted African Americans from entering white stores.[52] Segregated facilities extended from white only schools to white only graveyards.[53]

After the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in America, racial discrimination became regulated by the so-called Jim Crow laws, which mandated strict segregation of the races. Though many such laws were instituted shortly after fighting ended, they only became formalized after the 1877 end of the Reconstruction period. The period that followed is known as the nadir of American race relations. The legislation (or in some states, such as Florida, the state constitutions) that mandated segregation lasted at least until Brown v. Board of Education (1954).

An African-American man goes into the "colored" entrance of a movie theater in Belzoni, Mississippi, 1939.[54]

While the U.S. Supreme Court majority in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case explicitly permitted "separate but equal" facilities (specifically, transportation facilities), Justice John Marshall Harlan, in his dissent, protested that the decision was an expression of white supremacy; he predicted that segregation would "stimulate aggressions … upon the admitted rights of colored citizens," "arouse race hate," and "perpetuate a feeling of distrust between [the] races. Feelings between whites and blacks were so tense, even the jails were segregated."[55]

Colored Sailors room in World War I

Elected in 1912, President Woodrow Wilson ordered segregration throughout the federal government.[56] In World War I, blacks served in the United States Armed Forces in segregated units. Black soldiers were often poorly trained and equipped, and were often put on the frontlines in suicide missions. The U.S. military was still heavily segregated in World War II. The air force and the marines had no blacks enlisted in their ranks. There were blacks in the Navy Seabees. The army had only five African-American officers.[57] In addition, no African-American would receive the Medal of Honor during the war, and their tasks in the war were largely reserved to noncombat units. Black soldiers had to sometimes give up their seats in trains to the Nazi prisoners of war.[57]

A sign reading "We Cater to White Trade Only.
"We Cater to White Trade Only" sign on a restaurant window in Lancaster, Ohio, in 1938. In 1964 Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested and spent a night in jail for attempting to eat at a white-only restaurant in St. Augustine, Florida

American sports were racially segregated until the mid-twentieth century. In baseball, the "Negro leagues" were established by Rube Foster for non-white players, such as Negro league baseball, which ran through the early 1950s.[58] In basketball, the Black Fives (all-black teams) were established in 1904, and emerged in New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and other cities. Racial segregation in basketball lasted until 1950, when the NBA became racially integrated.[59] On September 11, 1964, John Lennon announced The Beatles would not play to a segregated audience in Jacksonville, Florida.[60] City officials relented following this announcement.[60] A contract for a 1965 Beatles concert at the Cow Palace in California specifies that the band "not be required to perform in front of a segregated audience".[60]

White tenants seeking to prevent blacks from moving into the housing project erected this sign. Detroit, 1942

In the reception to honor his Olympic success Jesse Owens was not permitted to enter through the main doors of the Waldorf Astoria New York and instead forced to travel up to the event in a freight elevator.[61] The first black Oscar recipient Hattie McDaniel was not permitted to attend the premiere of Gone with the Wind with Georgia being racially segregated, and at the Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles she was required to sit at a segregated table at the far wall of the room; the hotel had a no-blacks policy, but allowed McDaniel in as a favor.[62]

Rosa Parks being fingerprinted by Deputy Sheriff D.H. Lackey after being arrested for not giving up her seat on the bus to a white person

Many U.S. states banned interracial marriage. While opposed to slavery in the U.S, in a speech in Charleston, Illinois in 1858, Abraham Lincoln stated, "I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people. I as much as any man am in favor of the superior position assigned to the white race".[63] In 1967, Mildred Loving, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were sentenced to a year in prison in Virginia for marrying each other.[64] Their marriage violated the state's anti-miscegenation statute, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which prohibited marriage between people classified as white and people classified as "colored" (persons of non-white ancestry).[65] In the Loving v. Virginia case in 1967, the Supreme Court invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage in the U.S.[66]

Institutionalized racial segregation was ended as an official practice during the civil rights movement by the efforts of such civil rights activists as Clarence M. Mitchell Jr., Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King Jr., working for social and political freedom during the period from the end of World War II through the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965 supported by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Many of their efforts were acts of non-violent civil disobedience aimed at disrupting the enforcement of racial segregation rules and laws, such as refusing to give up a seat in the black part of the bus to a white person (Rosa Parks), or holding sit-ins at all-white diners.

By 1968 all forms of segregation had been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, and by 1970 support for formal legal segregation had dissolved. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas in 1954 outlawed segregation in public schools. The Fair Housing Act of 1968, administered and enforced by the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, prohibited discrimination in the sale and rental of housing on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. Formal racial discrimination became illegal in school systems, businesses, the American military, other civil services and the government.

Other Languages
العربية: عزل عنصري
azərbaycanca: Seqreqasiya
беларуская: Сегрэгацыя
հայերեն: Սեգրեգացիա
ქართული: სეგრეგაცია
कॉशुर / کٲشُر: नस्ली अलीहदगी
қазақша: Сегрегация
Кыргызча: Сегрегация
lietuvių: Segregacija
Bahasa Melayu: Pengasingan kaum
Nederlands: Rassensegregatie
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Segregatsiya
русиньскый: Расова сегрегация
русский: Сегрегация
Simple English: Racial segregation
slovenščina: Segregacija
svenska: Segregation
Tiếng Việt: Phân chia chủng tộc
中文: 种族隔离