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Segregation (as applied to different human groups) is characterized by separation of the different groups in daily life, such as when eating in a restaurant, drinking from a water fountain, using a rest room, attending school, going to the movies, or in the rental or purchase of a home. Segregation is often claimed to be motivated by racism, but may be motivated by arguments such as this being beneficial for all groups (see ethnic heterogeneity).


A distinction is sometimes made between segregation as being involuntary (such as due to laws) and/or partial and separation as being a voluntary and/or a more complete process, which may imply territorial separation of the different groups into different, homogeneous territories. See also White separatism.

The opposite of segregation is desegregation (such as due to changing laws). Integration may be seen as the opposite of separation and may be seen as a more voluntary and/or more complete process.


Desegregation may also more specifically refer to the desegregation in the United States. It started in the 1950s and is associated with the Civil Rights Movement.


  • You and we are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not discuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffer very greatly, many of them by living among us, while ours suffer from your presence. In a word we suffer on each side. If this is admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated. You here are freemen I suppose. [...] Perhaps you have long been free, or all your lives. Your race are suffering, in my judgment, the greatest wrong inflicted on any people. But even when you cease to be slaves, you are yet far removed from being placed on an equality with the white race. You are cut off from many of the advantages which the other race enjoy. The aspiration of men is to enjoy equality with the best when free, but on this broad continent, not a single man of your race is made the equal of a single man of ours. Go where you are treated the best, and the ban is still upon you.Abraham Lincoln on 14 August 1862 addressing a negro committee

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