We turn now to the era of formal and legal segregation, which began in the last decades of the nineteenth century and was fully established by the first decade of the twentieth century. After a bloody Civil War and a relatively brief Reconstruction period (circa 1867-1877), during which there was some significant racial integration of southern society, the white elite successfully used violence-especially terrorism by new white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan-to end this era of increasing racial integration. After large-scale terroristic violence by these supremacist groups killed and injured thousands of black southerners and their white allies, Reconstruction governments were severely weakened, and the old slaveholding elite was soon back in control of southern and border states. That extremely racist elite moved to cement into place an extensive system of legal and customary segregation placing black Americans in what was, in effect, a near-slavery system. l

Writing in the middle of this legal segregation era, the social historian W E. B. Du Bois summed up what the white elite in the southern and border states had accomplished. After 250 years of enslaving black Americans,

it turned on his emancipation to beat a beaten man, to trade in slaves, and to kill the defenseless; to break the spirit of the black man and humiliate him into hopelessness; to establish a new dictatorship of property in the South through the color line.2