Segregation was the practice of requiring separate public and private facilities for whites and blacks. While segregation was pervasive in the South after the American Civil War, African Americans still had much to overcome in the North as well.
During the 1950s, the Civil Rights Movement became an important part of life in the United States. While discrimination seemed most prevalent in the South, it also existed in Northern states. In Ohio, a number of people refused to treat African Americans equally. Some school districts in Ohio refused to admit African-American students to schools with white pupils. Many businesses had separate areas for whites and blacks or would refuse admittance to African Americans entirely. Whites also succeeded in denying African Americans access to homes in many neighborhoods.
A major step towards white-black equality during the 1950s was the Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas decision. In 1954, the United States Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional. The unanimous opinion of the court partly read:
Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does...We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Brown v. the Board of Education decision helped end segregated schools in Ohio. While Ohio did not officially have separate institutions for whites and blacks, individual school districts sometimes intentionally or unintentionally permitted segregation to occur. In Highland County, the Hillsboro school district had local laws in existence in the early 1950s that required separate schools for whites and African Americans. In many cities, African Americans and whites resided in their own communities. Many neighborhood schools had either only white pupils or only black students. Following the Brown v. the Board of Education decision, the courts required segregated school districts to integrate. Most of Ohio's larger school districts used busing to end segregation. To create racially mixed schools, districts transported students of one race from their neighborhood schools to other schools.
Many white and black Ohioans opposed busing. Opponents pointed out that violence sometimes occurred in schools between the students of different races, and teachers of one racial background sometimes did not treat fairly students of another race. As late as 1986, federal courts were still involved in ending segregation in Ohio's schools. This was especially true in Cleveland, where many people had moved to the suburbs, leaving mainly African Americans and ethnic whites in the city itself. Many ethnic whites preferred their own neighborhood schools, where the teachers could educate the students in their traditional customs. Nevertheless, by the mid 1980s, most school districts were desegregated.
To help end segregation and discrimination in other places besides schools, the Ohio General Assembly enacted the Ohio Civil Rights Act of 1959. This legislation replaced the Ohio Public Accommodations Law of 1884, which had prohibited discriminatory practices in public facilities. The state of Ohio had failed to enforce the earlier act's provisions. The Ohio Civil Rights Act of 1959 was passed to "prevent and eliminate the practice of discrimination in employment against persons because of their race, color, religion, national origin, or ancestry." It also guaranteed all people fair access to public facilities and private businesses.
The Ohio Civil Rights Act created the Ohio Civil Rights Commission to enforce the law. The commission initially conducted a study of discriminatory practices within the state and discovered that minority groups were commonly denied jobs and access to various businesses, including restaurants, bowling alleys, hotels, and innumerable other establishments. As the Ohio Civil Rights Commission began enforcing the Civil Rights Act, a number of organizations tried to avoid the law, by becoming private clubs rather than businesses open to the public. Despite these attempts, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission has been successful over the past several decades in achieving its goals.
The State of Ohio also sought to eliminate segregation and discrimination in housing. Landlords in Ohio often refused to rent apartments or homes to African Americans. Homeowners also sometimes refused to sell their residences to black people. To help end discrimination in this area, in 1965, the Ohio Fair Housing Act was enacted. This legislation prohibited racial discrimination in housing except if the owner also resided in the building or if the home or apartment building had only one or two rental units. This legislation did not end discrimination in housing entirely, but it did provide African Americans in Ohio with a legal means to secure equal access to housing.
At the start of the twenty-first century, dramatic improvements have occurred in opportunities for African Americans, but despite the various federal and state efforts to end racial discrimination and segregation, true equality, while closer, has not been completely achieved.