How Far We’ve Come: The History of Segregation in Colorado
Colorado is known for being a forward state, but just how forward was the state when it came to segregation?
Some people look back at the history of segregation and think that it was "such a long time ago," but is that thought based in reality? The answer: NOT AT ALL.
Miscegenation Laws In Colorado
In 1864, miscegenation marriage laws were some of the first Jim Crowe laws in Colorado. The law stated:
All marriages between negroes or mulattoes of either sex and white persons are declared to be absolutely void.
It wasn't until 1957 that Rep. Bob Allen of Denver sponsored HB 1039, which repealed the law, which meant interracial marriage was no longer a crime. For those of you who don't want to do the math, that was only 65 years ago, while the initial law itself was in effect for 93 years.
Segregation In Colorado
While there weren't nearly as many Jim Crowe laws in the West as there were in the South, segregation was still an issue.
People of color were not allowed to enjoy the same novelties as those who were white and were often denied service at restaurants and other places of business, were forced to attend different schools than those who were white, and of course could not use the same facilities (restrooms, water fountains, etc.) as white people.
When Did Segregation End in Colorado?
Segregation was outlawed in Colorado in 1895 when Colorado passed its civil rights law which stated:
All persons within [Colorado] shall be entitled to…equal enjoyment of the accommodations [and] facilities of inns, restaurants, eating houses, barbershops, public [transportation], theaters, and all other places of public accommodation and amusement…regardless of color or race.
However, that law was not regularly enforced, and blacks still faced discrimination until the late 1900s.
When it came to education, most might assume that schools in Colorado were desegregated in 1954 with Brown vs the Board of Education, a landmark decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, but that isn't correct.
In reality, most schools remained segregated in Colorado until 1973 when the U.S. Supreme Court prohibited segregation in Denver public schools.
That's just a mere 49 years ago.
So again, was segregation really that long ago here in Colorado? Absolutely not, but without a look back at our history, no matter how treacherous, we cannot move forward.