This chapter focuses on the role of segregation in shaping the American federal state both before and after civil rights legislation was enacted in the 1960s. It argues that in the seventy years before civil rights, the federal government was not a mere reflection of racism in society but an active agent in fostering segregated race relations both in its own institutions and in society. This legacy was then dramatically transformed from the 1960s as the American federal state became a key agent charged with leading the eradication of discrimination in public and private sectors and building compensatory arrangements and policies to remedy past injustices. Thus, in both the world of segregation and in the civil rights era, the American federal state has been a core agent of the state’s relationship to patterns of racial inequality. The chapter draws on primary research materials to develop this analysis.