After the American Civil War most states in the South passed anti-African American legislation. These became known as Jim Crow laws. This included laws that discriminated against African Americans with concern to attendance in public schools and the use of facilities such as restaurants, theaters, hotels, cinemas and public baths. Trains and buses were also segregated and in many states marriage between whites and African American people.
Jim Crow laws were tested in 1896 by Homer Plessey when convicted in Louisiana for riding in a white only railway car. Plessey took his case to the Supreme Court but the justices voted in favour of the Louisiana Court. William B. Brown established the legality of segregation as long as facilities were kept "separate but equal". Only one of the justices, John Harlan, disagreed with this decision.
In the early 1950s the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People concentrated on bringing an end to segregation on buses and trains. In 1952 segregation on inter-state railways was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. This was followed in 1954 by a similar judgment concerning inter-state buses. However, states in the Deep South continued their own policy of transport segregation. This usually involved whites sitting in the front and blacks sitting nearest to the front had to give up their seats to any whites that were standing.
African American people who disobeyed the state's transport segregation policies were arrested and fined. In 1956 African Americans, led by Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, organised the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Transport segregation continued in some parts of the Deep South, so in 1961, a civil rights group, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) began to organize Freedom Rides. After three days of training in non-violent techniques, black and white volunteers sat next to each other as they travelled through the Deep South. On their journeys they also campaigned against other forms of racial discrimination. They sat together, in segregated restaurants, lunch counters and hotels. This was especially effective when it concerned large companies who, fearing boycotts in the North, began to desegregate their businesses.
In 1964, President, Lyndon Baines Johnson, managed to persuade Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act. This made racial discrimination in public places, such as theaters, restaurants and hotels, illegal. It also required employers to provide equal employment opportunities. Projects involving federal funds could now be cut off if there was evidence of discriminated based on colour, race or national origin.