Separate and Unequal: Black Americans and the US Federal Government

Synopsis

Segregation in Federal government agencies and programs has been little appreciated as a key trait of American race relations in the decades before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Federal government used its power to impose a segregated pattern of race relations among its employees and, through its programs, upon the whole of American society well beyond the Mason-Dixon line. This pattern structured the relationship between black Americans and the United States Federal government--whether as employees in government agencies, inmates or officers in federal prisons, inductees in the armed services, consumers of federally-guaranteed mortgages, jobseekers in United States Employment Service offices, or visitors to National Parks in which the facilities were segregated (or, in some cases, non-existent for Black American visitors). In all these instances, segregation did not simply imply separation, but also profound inequality. In this work, King documents how instead of thwarting segregated race relations, the Federal government participated in their maintenance and diffusion.

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