Civil Rights and Protests


What was the Civil Rights Act of 1866?

Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which took a first step toward enfranchising the black population by guaranteeing the legal rights of former slaves. It did not become law until March 1, 1875. The act declared that everyone, regardless of race, color, or previous condition, was entitled to “make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, and give evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property, and to full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property, as is enjoyed by white citizens.” No citizen could be denied the right to serve on grand or petit juries. No provisions were made for access to public education. As blacks sought the provisions that the law dictated, the federal and district courts that were responsible for enforcing the law were indifferent to their claims of racial discrimination. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the law in 1883, declaring that Congress lacked the power to regulate peoples’ conduct and transactions.


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