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The Jim Crow laws were racial segregation state and local laws enacted after the Reconstruction period in Southern United States that continued in force until 1965 mandating de jure racial segregation in all public facilities in Southern U.S. states (of the former Confederacy), starting in 1890 with a "separate but equal" status for African Americans. Conditions for African Americans were consistently inferior and underfunded compared to those provided for white Americans. This decision institutionalized a number of economic, educational and social disadvantages. De jure segregation mainly applied to the Southern United States, while Northern segregation was generally de facto — patterns of segregation in housing enforced by covenants, bank lending practices and job discrimination, including discriminatory union practices for decades.

Jim Crow laws mandated the segregation of public schools, public places and public transportation, and the segregation of restrooms, restaurants and drinking fountains for whites and blacks. The U.S. military was also segregated, as were federal workplaces, initiated in 1913 under President Woodrow Wilson, the first Southern president elected since 1856. His administration practiced overt racial discrimination in hiring, requiring candidates to submit photos.

These Jim Crow laws followed the 1800-1866 Black Codes, which had previously restricted the civil rights and civil liberties of African Americans. Segregation of public (state-sponsored) schools was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education. Generally, the remaining Jim Crow laws were overruled by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 but years of action and court challenges were needed to unravel numerous means of institutional discrimination. Such challenges continue.