Slavery in the United States began soon after English colonists first settled Virginia and lasted until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1865. The 19th century saw a hardening of institutionalized racism and legal discrimination against citizens of African descent in the United States. Although technically able to vote, poll taxes, acts of terror (often perpetuated by groups like the KKK) and discriminatory laws kept African Americans disenfranchised, particularly in the South.
During this time, segregation, racial discrimination and expressions of white supremacy all increased, as did anti-black violence such as lynching and race riots.
Racism, which had been viewed primarily as a problem in the Southern states, burst onto the national consciousness following the Great Migration, the relocation of millions of African Americans from their roots in the Southern states to the industrial centers of the North after World War I. This took place particularly in cities such as Boston, Chicago and New York (Harlem). In northern cities, racial tensions exploded most violently in Chicago.
The 1950s and 1960s saw the peaking of the American Civil Rights Movement with the desegregation of schools in 1954 and the organizing of widespread protests across the nation under a younger generation of leaders. Martin Luther King was a catalyst for many nonviolent protests in the 1960s, which led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The act prohibited discrimination in public facilities, in government and in employment and invalidating the Jim Crow laws (which mandated segregation in all public facilities, with a "separate but equal" status for black Americans and other non-white racial groups) in the southern United States. It became illegal to force segregation of the races in schools, housing or hiring.
This signified a change in the social acceptance of racism that had been written into American law and an increase in the number of opportunities available for people of color in the United States. However, African American poverty and education inequalities continue and have deepened in the post-industrial era.