Civil Rights Acts

Civil Rights Acts

Federal legislation enacted by Congress over the course of a century beginning with the post-Civil War era that implemented and extended the fundamental guarantees of the Constitution to all citizens of the United States, regardless of their race, color, age, or religion.

The Civil Rights Acts of 1866 (14 Stat. 27) and 1870 (16 Stat. 140) were enacted to give newly freed slaves the same rights under federal law as those afforded to non-slaves. Such rights were the rights to sue and be sued, the rights to own real and Personal Property, and the rights to testify and present evidence in legal proceedings. Serious questions existed, however, as to the constitutionality of the 1866 act and to whether Congress actually had authority to enact such a measure. Subsequent to the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, Congress reenacted the act pursuant to its power under the amendment to enforce the amendment through appropriate legislation. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was, therefore, superseded by the Civil Rights Act of 1870.

In 1875 Congress passed a third Civil Rights Act (18 Stat. 336) in response to the refusal of many whites who owned public establishments, inns, railroads, and other facilities to make them equally available to blacks. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 prohibited racial discrimination in such places and guaranteed "full and equal enjoyment" of such places.

Violations of this act abounded and criminal prosecutions ensued. A number of convictions were appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States which in 1883 declared the act unconstitutional in the civil rights cases, 109 U.S. 3, 3 S. Ct. 18, 27 L. Ed. 835. The Court reasoned that the social rights that the act safeguarded were not civil rights and, therefore, Congress was powerless to legislate on the social conduct of private individuals. Following this decision, states began enacting Segregation into various laws, the most notorious of which were the Jim Crow Laws. It took more than eighty years before Congress would again attempt to legislate in this area.

The Civil Rights Acts of 1957 represented congressional recognition that the federal government had to bring about an end to racial discrimination. The civil rights commission was established and the laws guaranteed qualified voters the right to vote, regardless of their color. In the years 1964 to 1968 Congress enacted extensive and far-reaching legislation affording blacks equal status under the law, ranging from full and free enjoyment of public accommodations and facilities to the prohibition of racial discrimination in employment as well as transactions affecting housing in the United States.

The Civil Rights Act of 1991 granted to victims of unlawful discrimination the right to seek money damages, jury trials, and back pay.

Cross-references

Civil Rights; "Civil Rights Act of 1964" (Appendix, Primary Document); Ku Klux Klan Act; "Voting Rights Act of 1965" (Appendix, Primary Document).

References in periodicals archive ?
It covers the primary procedural and substantive issues occurring under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, along with chapters on federal statutes, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Civil Rights Acts, and the Equal Pay Act.
Johnson discussed the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1964 as the beginning of freedom for blacks in America (75) President Johnson argued, however, that the freedoms granted by these acts were not enough, and that one cannot "wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: Now you are free to go where you want, and do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please." (76) President Johnson provided statistical evidence of the continued racial inequalities and thus, of "American failure." (77) President Johnson introduced what he saw as the next step in the civil rights movement:
There is no question that the three Civil Rights Acts were born of the pox of slavery.
Kennedy, who had long struggled with the moral issue of civil rights, addressed the nation about the topic of civil rights on June 11, 1963, declaring that "[t]hose who do nothing are inviting shame as well as violence [and [t]hose who act boldly are recognizing right as well as reality." (3) From this era of protest and violence was born the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the "Act").4 Now fifty years later we reflect on the Act's promise, whether the promise of the Act has been fulfilled and for whom, and consider the future of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Civil Rights Acts were important in securing the demise of Jim Crow, but those laws have long since outlived their usefulness in the regulation of private behavior in competitive markets.
I speak here of one curious omission from Loury's field of vision: the basic prohibition, in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, against discrimination based on race in the terms and conditions of employment.
Loury not only misses the unintended consequences of the 1964 Civil Rights Act; he fails to note that the statute epitomizes the color blindness he deplores for its obliviousness to real social differences.
He notes that even now, after the passage of civil rights acts, racism still exists as "blacks continue to lag behind whites in terms of major social indicators." Specifically, gaps between blacks and whites in terms of incomes and living standards have widened in the last thirty years as an outcome of America's political and economic institutions.
Gay/Lesbian Protection--Federal Civil Rights Acts do not protect a person from discrimination in employment as a result of the person's sexual preference.
The 1991 Civil Rights Act was passed only after a great deal of compromise among the president, the congressional Republicans and the Democrats, and only after the Clarence Thomas hearings brought issues of sexual harassment to prime-time television.
* extension of the Civil Rights Act protection to gay and lesbian workers.
Part two focuses on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with chapters on covered entities, defining and proving discrimination, the prohibited classifications, procedural requirements for private sector employees, federal government employees, class actions, and remedies.