Civil Rights Act of 1875

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Civil Rights Act of 1875
Great Seal of the United States
Long title An act to protect all citizens in their civil and legal rights.
Acronyms (colloquial) CRA 1875
Nicknames Enforcement Act, Force Act, and Sumner Civil Rights Bill
Enacted by the 43rd United States Congress
Statutes at Large 18 Stat. 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)

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 prohibit exclusion from jury service. 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.

History of Act[edit]

Legislative History[edit]

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.[3] 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 eventually passed by the 43rd Congress in February 1875 and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1875.[4]

Constitutional challenge[edit]

Main article: Civil Rights Cases

The Supreme Court, in a 8–1 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 law[edit]

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.

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Atwell, Mary Welek (2012). Wilbur R. Miller, ed. Civil Rights Act of 1875. The Social History of Crime and Punishment in America: An Encyclopedia (SAGE). pp. 262–263. ISBN 9781412988766. 
  • Bitzer, J. Michael (2006). Paul Finkelman, ed. Civil Rights Act of 1875. The Encyclopedia of American Civil Liberties (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. Encyclopedia of African American History, 1619-1895: From The Colonial Period to the Age of Frederick Douglass, vol. 1, A-E (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. 
  • 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. Freedom Facts and Firsts: 400 Years of the African American Civil Rights Experience (Visible Ink Press). pp. 165–167. ISBN 9781578591923. 
  • Avins, Alfred (May 1966). "The Civil Rights Act of 1875: Some Reflected Light on the Fourteenth Amendment and Public Accommodations". Columbia Law Review 66: 873–915. doi:10.2307/1121057. 
  • Franklin, John Hope (Winter 1974). "The Enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1875" (PDF). Prologue Magazine 6 (4): 225–235. 
  • Gudridge, Patrick O. (April 1989). "Privileges and Permissions: The Civil Rights Act of 1875". Law and Philosophy 8 (1): 83–130. doi:10.2307/3504632. 
  • Jager, Ronald B. (September 1969). "Charles Sumner, the Constitution, and the Civil Rights Act of 1875". The New England Quarterly 42 (3): 350–372. doi:10.2307/363614. 
  • McPherson, James M. (December 1965). "Abolitionists and the Civil Rights Act of 1875". Journal of American History 52 (3). 
  • Murphy, L.E. (April 1927). "The Civil Rights Law of 1875". Journal of Negro History 12 (2). 
  • Spackman, S. G. F. (December 1976). "American Federalism and the Civil Rights Act of 1875". Journal of American Studies 10 (3): 313–328. doi:10.1017/s0021875800003182. 
  • Weaver, Valeria W. (October 1969). "The Failure of Civil Rights 1875–1883 and its Repercussions". The Journal of Negro History 54 (4): 368–382. doi:10.2307/2716730. 
  • Wyatt-Brown, Bertram (December 1965). "The Civil Rights Act of 1875". Western Political Quarterly 18 (4): 763–765. doi:10.1177/106591296501800403. 

External links[edit]

Congressional Records