Jul 05, 2011 - 7 Comments - Geography Forum, History, NPS -

A Map of Racial Segregation in the U.S.

I occasionally hear stories told about traveling across the country in the pre-Civil Rights Act years and the odd manifestations of racial segregation that would be encountered.

My family, always frequent travelers between our home bases in Iowa, Arizona, and Texas, has lots of these observations. Just recently, my uncle told me about his a trip through Texas as a kid.  While stopping for a bathroom break at a gas station, he found the nearest restroom in an outbuilding, but missed the “colored only” sign at the entrance.  Using the toilet before checking for toilet paper was a mistake.  He went inside the building to ask for the paper, but was met with a chuckling clerk.  “These restrooms over here are for you,” he informed as he pointed to the white-only men’s room which were found to have no shortage of toilet paper.

At Brown v Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka Kansas, I found a map which showed racial segregation laws by state.  It is a fascinating map, and I have re-created it below.

The map shows the states which had mandated segregation – mostly in the Deep South, as well as permissible segregation (Kansas, among several others).

Some states were progressive enough to have outlawed any segregation (northeast, Midwest, some western states), but many others had no laws addressing it at all.

Do you have any personal stories about encounters with racial segregation that you could share?

Segregation prior to Brown

Map by Jacob Morgan