What was the compromise of 1877

Missouri Compromise: When the US split into North and South

From then on, the social and legal principle of "separate but equal" applied in the South, defining racial segregation and the relationship between the politically dominant white population and Afro-Americans and firmly anchoring it in America's legal consciousness for the next few decades. So-called Jim Crow laws, with which the separation of blacks and whites in the southern states was decreed in every perceptible public place, turned black people into second-class citizens. This American variant of apartheid was named after a joke that was created in the USA in the 19th century and referred to a dancing and singing black man. "Jim the Crow" has become synonymous with discrimination against African Americans.

Schools, clinics, buses, restaurants - the separation soon encompassed all of public life. Separate Bibles were available in courts; in bars the stools were separated by skin color; Post offices served at separate counters; there were separate swings in playgrounds. Blacks were not allowed to use the same toilets and dressing rooms as whites, were excluded from elections, and discriminated against in everyday life. Blacks had to avoid whites on the sidewalk and address them as Sir or Madam, while conversely the blacks were called by the latter by their first name. For black men, regardless of age, "boy" was usually the appropriate form of address.

Black citizen protest

Racial segregation also survived the First and Second World Wars. None other than President Woodrow Wilson, the initiator of the right of peoples to self-determination, decreed segregation for the public service in 1914. And in Roosevelt's New Deal era, racial discrimination was just as minor as it was during World War II. Institutionalized racism remained untouched for a long time. In the early 1950s, blacks had to get up in the southern United States if a white man wanted to sit on the park bench next to him.

The civil rights movement opposed this humiliating discrimination in the 1950s and 1960s. It achieved its first success in 1954 when the Supreme Court declared racial segregation in public schools in all states to be unconstitutional. When Arkansas defied the Supreme Court's decision, the nationally high-profile incident occurred on September 4, 1957 at Little Rock Central High School when an angry white mob called "lynching them" to prevent black students from entering the school to enter. US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who refused to allow "mob rule to overturn the Supreme Court decision," three weeks later sent military units to the city on the Arkansas River to allow nine black students to attend school enable.

Another signal in the fight against racial segregation had already been sent two years earlier by the pregnant Claudette Colvin. She refused to vacate her seat on a public bus, which was reserved for the whites, after the action was continued as a deliberate political action by Rosa Parks, a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), among others , one of the most important and spectacular civil rights protests in US history.

In the early 1960s, numerous non-violent student protests and Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech on August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, which helped the civil rights movement to break out, attracted further national attention.

Racial segregation was finally abolished by the Civil Rights Act signed by US President Lyndon B. Johnson in July 1964, which enshrined in law that no American should be discriminated against on the basis of skin color, origin or gender. "This made the ideal of equality a reality," says Harvard University lecturer, American historian Elizabeth Hinton.

Color blind justice system

Today, more than 50 years after Johnson's Civil Rights Act, African Americans are equal in the United States, and Barack Obama's election as President of the United States in 2008 became a major symbol of their ability to achieve anything. This does not, however, draw a line under the culture of injustice. "Even at the beginning of the 21st century, there is still no real equality between whites and blacks," says civil rights activist Michelle Alexander. In view of the persistent social disadvantage, she has been calling for an end to the "ideology of color blindness" in the judicial system, where the "narrative of white superiority" is particularly virulent.

The consequences of this attitude are reflected in the almost knee-jerk behavior of many police officers and judges. Blacks are classified as dangerous because of their skin color alone, are subjected to arbitrary personnel controls and receive higher prison sentences for the same offenses. In the United States, police shoot eight times as many blacks as whites.

The disadvantages in the judiciary can also be found in other areas of social life. Many blacks still live in poorer residential areas with poorer schools, have more difficult access to mortgages or student loans, and their communities are hit harder than average by unemployment.

The fact that slavery and racial segregation are still far from being adequately dealt with is also proven by the sometimes violent dispute over southern monuments: Should statues such as those of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia be removed from public space? In 2017, the city government's attempt to do just that sparked a march of right-wing racists, killing three people. Since then, people have been looking for a compromise.