Integration, in U.S. history, right to equal access for people of all races to such facilities as schools, churches, housing, and public accommodations. It became an issue of public importance in the United States after the Civil War and the pasage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution, 1864–70, which declared the African American free and equal, and the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Although slavery was ended as a legal institution, state laws were passed during the reaction against Reconstruction to enforce the physical segregation of blacks and whites.
Tennessee adopted the first “Jim Crow” law in 1875, segregating public transportation. In 1896 the Supreme Court approved “separate but equal” accommodations for blacks, following which segregation laws proliferated. In the North segregation in housing created the black slum ghettos; while less common than in the South, segregation still continued in factories, unions, and restaurants. In 1910 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded in New York, followed by the National Urban League in 1911. Several activist groups were formed in the 1940s, including the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).
The NAACP won its greatest legal victories in 1954 and 1955, when the Supreme Court outlawed segregation in the public schools and ordered that integration be implemented “with all deliberate speed.” Among black leaders advocating passive resistance to discriminatory local laws was Martin Luther King, Jr. His Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the more radical Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee exerted political pressure to enact the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Integration was more generally accepted during the 1970s, although serious unrest occurred over busing practices to end school segregation in many cities.