After the American Civil War and the subsequent abolition of slavery in the 1860s, the Reconstruction Amendments to the United States Constitution granted emancipation and constitutional rights of citizenship to all African Americans, most of whom had recently been enslaved. For a short period of time, African American men voted and held political office, but as time went on they were increasingly deprived of civil rights, often under the racist Jim Crow laws, and African Americans were subjected to discrimination and sustained violence by white supremacists in the South.
After the disputed election of 1876, which resulted in the end of Reconstruction and the withdrawal of federal troops, whites in the South regained political control of the region's state legislatures. They continued to intimidate and violently attack blacks before and during elections to suppress their voting.
From 1890 to 1908, southern states passed new constitutions and laws to disenfranchise African Americans and many Poor Whites by creating barriers to voter registration; voting rolls were dramatically reduced as blacks and poor whites were forced out of electoral politics. During the same time as African Americans were being disenfranchised, white southerners imposed racial segregation by law. Violence against blacks increased, with numerous lynchings through the turn of the century.
Housing segregation became a nationwide problem following the Great Migration of black people out of the South. Racial covenants were employed by many real estate developers to "protect" entire subdivisions, with the primary intent to keep "white" neighborhoods "white". Ninety percent of the housing projects built in the years following World War II were racially restricted by such covenants. Cities known for their widespread use of racial covenants include Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Seattle, and St. Louis.
The first anti-miscegenation law was passed by the Maryland General Assembly in 1691, criminalizing interracial marriage. In a speech in Charleston, Illinois in 1858, Abraham Lincoln stated, "I am not, nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people". By the late 1800s, 38 US states had anti-miscegenation statutes. By 1924, the ban on interracial marriage was still in force in 29 states.
Over the following century, various efforts were made by African Americans to secure their legal and civil rights, such as the civil rights movement (1865–1896) and the civil rights movement (1896–1954).