Segregation Law and Legal Definition

Segregation is the physical separation of categories of individuals, usually on the basis of gender, race, religion, or class. It can be de jure or de facto—sanctioned by law or custom. Although the word normally implies an involuntary situation, segregation can also reflect voluntary behavior or some mixture of voluntary and involuntary circumstances. Various types of segregation have been common in American history, but the term usually refers to a systemic pattern that has historically affected blacks more than other Americans.

The Civil Rights Movement was initiated by Southern blacks in the 1950s and '60s to break the prevailing pattern of racial segregation. This movement spurred the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which contained strong provisions against discrimination and segregation in voting, education, and the use of public facilities.