Civil Rights Act of 1875

The Civil Rights Act of 1875 (18 Stat. 335–337),[2] sometimes called Enforcement Act or Force Act, was a United States federal law enacted during the Reconstruction era to guarantee African Americans equal treatment in public accommodations, public transportation, and to prevent being excluded from jury duty. The bill was passed by the 43rd United States Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1875. Several years later, the Supreme Court ruled in Civil Rights Cases (1883) that sections of the act were unconstitutional.

Civil Rights Act of 1875
Great Seal of the United States
Long titleAn act to protect all citizens in their civil and legal rights.
Acronyms (colloquial)CRA 1875
NicknamesEnforcement Act, Force Act, and Sumner Civil Rights Bill
Enacted bythe 43rd United States Congress
Citations
Statutes at LargeUSStat 18 335-337
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the Senate as S. 1 by Sen. Charles Sumner (R-MA) on May 13, 1870[1]
  • Committee consideration by Senate Judiciary
  • Passed the House on February 4, 1875 (162–99)
  • Passed the Senate on February 27, 1875 (38–26)
  • Signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1875
United States Supreme Court cases
The Civil Rights Cases (1883)

History of ActEdit

Legislative HistoryEdit

The drafting of the bill was done in early 1870 by Senator Charles Sumner. It was with the assistance of John Mercer Langston, a prominent African-American who established the law department at Howard University.[3] The bill was proposed by Senator Sumner and co-sponsored by Representative Benjamin F. Butler, both Republicans from Massachusetts, in the 41st United States Congress in 1870. The act was eventually passed by the 43rd Congress in February 1875 and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1875.[4]

Constitutional challengeEdit

The Supreme Court, in an 8 to 1 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.[5] 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 lawEdit

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.[6]

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.

ReferencesEdit

  1. "Civil Rights Bill of 1875, Legislative Interests, The Fifteenth Amendment in Flesh and Blood, Black Americans in Congress series". Retrieved November 12, 2012.
  2. "U.S. Statutes at Large, 43rd Congress, Session II, chapter 114, pages 335–337" (PDF). Retrieved November 13, 2012.
  3. "John Mercer Langston, Representative, 1890–1891, Republican from Virginia, Black Americans in Congress series". Retrieved November 12, 2012.
  4. "Civil Rights Bill of 1875, Legislative Interests, The Fifteenth Amendment in Flesh and Blood, Black Americans in Congress series". Retrieved May 5, 2009.
  5. Gerber, Richard; Friedlander, Alan (2008). "The Civil Rights Act of 1875 A Reexamination". Retrieved 2009-05-05.
  6. "Summary of Constitutional Amendments and Major Civil Rights Acts passed by Congress". Retrieved November 20, 2012.