After the United States abolished slavery, black Americans continued to be marginalized through enforced segregated and diminished access to facilities, housing, education—and opportunities.

Segregation is the practice of requiring separate housing, education and other services for people of color. Segregation was made law several times in 18th and 19th-century America as some believed that black and white people were incapable of coexisting.

In the lead-up to the liberation of slaves under the Thirteenth Amendment, abolitionists argued about what the fate of slaves should be once they were freed. One group argued for colonization, either by returning the slaves to Africa or creating their own homeland. In 1862 President Abraham Lincoln recognized the ex-slave countries of Haiti and Liberia, hoping to open up channels for colonization, with Congress allocating $600,000 to help. While the colonization plan did not pan out, the country, instead, set forth on a path of legally mandated segregation.