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 The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was, therefore, superseded by the Civil Rights Act of 1870.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.


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 ?
Part I of this Article discusses federal legislation on civil rights leading up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, specifically, the Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1957.
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.
There is no question that the three Civil Rights Acts were born of the pox of slavery.
3) From this era of protest and violence was born the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the "Act").
Part three examines other federal anti-discrimination legislation, with material on the Reconstruction Civil Rights Acts, the Equal Pay Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the statutory response to disability-based discrimination.
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 likewise overlooks the fact that the 1964 Civil Rights Act actually slowed down private adoption of the affirmative action programs he defends.
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.
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.