Despite complicity from the North, the harshest and most long-lasting forms of segregation occurred in the South. Why were white southerners so adamant in maintaining segregation? Students should come Segregation was intended to enforce and underscore the subordinate position of blacks in American society. to recognize that segregation was part of the system to subjugate African Americans and affirm their status as inferior people. Southern whites considered this system of vital importance because of the vast majority of African Americans lived in the South in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Separate was never equal nor was it meant to be. Segregation was intended to debase African Americans, strip them of their dignity, reinforce their inequality, and maintain a submissive agricultural labor force. In this way, you can point out to students that the southern United States from the 1890s through the 1960s was similar in many ways to South Africa during its Apartheid Era.