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Civil Rights Act of 1875

The Civil Rights Act of 1875 (18 United States Statutes at Large 335–337),[1] sometimes called Enforcement Act or Force Act, was a United States federal law enacted during the Reconstruction Era that guaranteed African Americans equal treatment in public accommodations, public transportation, and prohibited exclusion from jury service. The Supreme Court ruled in 1883 that the act was unconstitutional.

History of Act[edit | edit source]

Legislative History[edit | edit source]

The drafting of the bill was performed early in 1870 by Senator Charles Sumner, a dominant Radical Republican in the Senate, with the assistance of John Mercer Langston, a prominent African American who established the law department at Howard University.[2] The bill was proposed by Senator Sumner and co-sponsored by Representative Benjamin F. Butler, both Republicans from Massachusetts, in the 41st Congress of the United States in 1870. The act was finally passed by the 43rd Congress in February 1875 and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1875.[3]

Constitutional challenge[edit | edit source]

The Supreme Court of the United States in a nearly unanimous decision declared the act unconstitutional in the Civil Rights Cases on October 15, 1883. Justice John Marshall Harlan provided the lone dissent. The Court held the Equal Protection Clause within the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits discrimination by the state and local government, but it does not give the federal government the power to prohibit discrimination by private individuals and organizations.[4] The Court also held that the Thirteenth Amendment was meant to eliminate "the badge of slavery," but not to prohibit racial discrimination in public accommodations. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 was the last civil rights bill to be signed into law in the United States until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

Legacy of law[edit | edit source]

The Civil Rights Act of 1875 is notable as one of the major pieces of legislation related to Reconstruction that were passed by Congress after the American Civil War. These include the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the four Reconstruction Acts of 1867 and 1868, the three Enforcement Acts of 1870 and 1871, and the three Constitutional Amendments adopted between 1865 and 1870.[5]

Provisions contained in the Civil Rights Act of 1875 were later adopted by Congress during the Civil Rights Movement as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968. This legislation relied on the Commerce Clause contained in Article One of the Constitution of the United States.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Books[edit | edit source]

  • Atwell, Mary Welek (2012). Wilbur R. Miller. ed. Civil Rights Act of 1875. SAGE. pp. 262–263. ISBN 9781412988766. 
  • Bitzer, J. Michael (2006). Paul Finkelman. ed. Civil Rights Act of 1875. CRC Press. p. 300. ISBN 9780415943420. 
  • Howard, John R. (1999). The Shifting Wind: The Supreme Court and Civil Rights from Reconstruction to Brown. New York: State University of New York Press. pp. 66–68. ISBN 9780791440902. 
  • Luckett, Barbara N. (1972). The Civil Rights Act of 1875: A Failure Reconsidered. University of Nebraska at Omaha. 
  • Rivera, Alicia (2006). Paul Finkelman. ed. Civil Rights Act of 1875. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 285–287. ISBN 978-0-19-516777-1. 
  • Sandoval-Strausz, A. K. (2007). "Accommodating Jim Crow: The Law of Hospitality and the Struggle for Civil Rights". Hotel: An American History. Yale University Press. pp. 284–311. ISBN 9780300106169. 
  • Tsesis, Alexander (2010). ""Badges and Incidents of Slavery" In the Supreme Court". The Promises of Liberty: The History and Contemporary Relevance of the Thirteenth Amendment. Columbia University Press. pp. 172–181. ISBN 9780231141444. https://books.google.com/books?id=l6li0QzO4XAC&dq=%22Civil+Rights+Act+of+1875%22&source=gbs_navlinks_s. 
  • Wilson, Kirt H. (2002). The Reconstruction Desegregation Debate: The Politics of Equality and the Rhetoric of Place, 1870-1875. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press. ISBN 9780870136177. 
  • Wynn, Linda T. (2009). Jessie Carney Smith, Linda T. Wynn. ed. Civil Rights Act of 1875. Visible Ink Press. pp. 165–167. ISBN 9781578591923. 

Journals[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Congressional Records[edit | edit source]

Other[edit | edit source]

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