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Civil Rights Act Unconstitutional - History

Civil Rights Act Unconstitutional - History

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Civil Rights Act Unconstitutional
The Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was unconstitutional.

In 1875, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, which forbade racial discrimination in access to public accommodations and facilities. Over the ensuing years, a number of African Americans sued businesses that denied them access to segregated facilities. In 1883, the Supreme Court heard five of those cases, and, on October 15, 1883, struck down the Civil Rights Act of 1875 in an 8-1 decision known as the Civil Rights Cases.

In the Civil Rights Cases, the Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment, which was cited as the constitutional authorization for the Civil Rights Act of 1875 and mandates “equal protection of the laws,” does not apply to private entities. According to the Court, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applied only to actions taken by state governments or laws passed by state governments. Writing for the majority less than twenty years after ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, Justice Joseph Bradley questioned the necessity and appropriateness of laws aimed at protecting Black people from discrimination:

"When a man has emerged from slavery, and, by the aid of beneficent legislation, has shaken off the inseparable concomitants of that state, there must be some stage in the progress of his elevation when he takes the rank of a mere citizen and ceases to be the special favorite of the laws, and when his rights as a citizen or a man are to be protected in the ordinary modes by which other men's rights are protected."

The Supreme Court’s decision in the Civil Rights Cases eliminated the only federal law that prohibited racial discrimination by individuals or private businesses, and left African Americans who were victims of private discrimination to seek legal recourse in unsympathetic state courts. Racial discrimination in housing, restaurants, hotels, theaters, and employment, became increasingly entrenched and persisted for generations. It would take more than eighty years for the federal government to again attempt to outlaw discrimination with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


In response to political violence by the Ku Klux Klan and others during the Reconstruction era following the American Civil War, Congress passed three Enforcement Acts giving the federal government broader powers to guarantee citizens' constitutional rights. The third of these acts, enacted in April 1871, gave the president the power to imprison people without a trial (known as suspending the writ of habeas corpus) and to use the federal military on domestic soil to enforce constitutional rights, among other measures. [5]

In January 1871, Republican Senator John Scott of Pennsylvania convened a congressional committee to hear testimony from witnesses of Klan atrocities. In February, Republican Congressman Benjamin Franklin Butler of Massachusetts introduced his anti-Klan bill, intended to enforce both the Fourteenth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Butler's bill was narrowly defeated in the House, whereupon Republican Rep. Samuel Shellabarger, of Ohio, introduced a substitute bill, only slightly less sweeping than Butler's original. This bill brought a few holdout Republicans into line, and the bill narrowly passed the House, sailed through the Senate, and was signed into law on April 20 by President Grant. [6]

Use during Reconstruction Edit

After the Civil War, President Ulysses S. Grant conducted an aggressive—and ultimately successful—campaign against the Ku Klux Klan and its offshoots (such as the Knights of the White Camellia) from the 1860s to the 1870s. Grant deployed federal soldiers to arrest Klan members, enlisted U.S. attorneys to try their cases, supported Congressional legislation like the Ku Klux Klan Act, and organized federal judges to oversee Klan trials. [7] Under the Klan Act during Reconstruction, federal troops, rather than state militias, were used to enforce the law, and Klansmen were prosecuted in federal court, where juries were often predominantly black. Hundreds of Klan members were fined or imprisoned, and habeas corpus was suspended in nine counties in South Carolina. These efforts were so successful that the Klan was destroyed in South Carolina and decimated throughout the rest of the former Confederacy, where it had already been in decline for several years. The Klan was not to exist again until its recreation in 1915. During its brief existence, however, the "first era" Klan did achieve many of its goals in the South, such as denying voting rights to Southern blacks. [6]

In its early history, under the Grant Administration, this act was used, along with the Force Act, to bring to justice those who were violating the Civil Rights of newly freed African Americans. After the end of the Grant Administration, and the dismantling of Reconstruction under Rutherford B. Hayes, enforcement of the Act fell into disuse and few cases were brought under the statute for almost a hundred years.

Use during and after presidency of Donald Trump Edit

In December 2020, the NAACP along with the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and a group of Detroit voters sued U.S. President Donald Trump along its presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee under the act as well as the Voting Rights Act. [8] [9] [10] According to the lawsuit, President Trump and the Republican Party "coordinated conspiracy to disenfranchise Black voters" through legal actions intended to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania via "intimidation and coercion of election officials and volunteers". [9]

In February 2021, the NAACP and law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll filed another lawsuit invoking the act on behalf of U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson. [11] Other congresspersons were to join the litigation as plaintiffs. [12] [13] The February suit was filed against former President Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, the Proud Boys, and the Oath Keepers. [14] It alleges violations of the act pertaining to attempts to reject certification of the election results during the 2021 United States Electoral College vote count, as well as alleging conspiracy to incite violence leading to the 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol. [15] [16]

Section 1 of the Act, which has since been amended and codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and is now known as "Section 1983", authorized monetary and injunctive relief against anyone who, acting under the authority of state law, deprived a person of their constitutional rights. [17] Section 1983 is the most prominent and commonly-litigated civil rights statute. [18]

Every person who under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, Suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer's judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.

Section 1983 made relief—in the form of monetary damages—available to those whose constitutional rights had been violated by a person acting under State authority. Normally, constitutional rights violations are remedied by specific performance including injunctions by the courts. [ citation needed ] Thus, if a person's right to due process was violated by a prison guard who was said to be acting under the authority of the state, under § 1983, that person could bring suit for monetary damages against the prison guard. Without § 1983, that person would have to seek an injunction by the courts for the due process violation. The problem with such an action by the court is that injunctions, which instruct a party on penalty of contempt to perform or refrain from performing some action, cannot apply to past harm, only future harm. So, essentially the person would have an actionable cause—the constitutional violation—with no adequate remedy. Most § 1983 claims are brought against prison officials by prisoners, but prisoner claims are usually dismissed as being without merit. Claims can be brought by anyone stating a proper cause of action.

Circumstances changed in 1961 when the Supreme Court of the United States articulated three purposes that underlie the statute: "1) 'to override certain kinds of state laws' 2) to provide 'a remedy where state law was inadequate' and 3) to provide 'a federal remedy where the state remedy, though adequate in theory, was not available in practice.' " [20] [21]

Now the statute stands as one of the most powerful authorities with which state and federal courts may protect those whose rights are deprived. [22] Section 1983 of the 1871 Civil Rights Act provides a way individuals can sue to redress when their federally protected rights are violated, like the First Amendment rights and the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Section 1983 can be used to redress violated rights based on the federal Constitution and federal statutes, such as the prohibition of public sector employment discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, and religion.

In some jurisdictions, [ which? ] § 1983 has been applied directly to private employers when litigants have sued under this act. It can also be applied in virtually all jurisdictions in a more indirect manner to private employers if they are acting under state or federal authority. For example, if an additional private security company is hired by the police for an event and are given authority by the police, and, during the event, the security company violates a participant's First Amendment right, they can be sued under § 1983. [ citation needed ]

Targeted directly at the Klan and containing some two dozen clauses, Section 2 was longer than Section 1 and received more attention from Congress during debates. [23] It prohibited conspiracies to overthrow the federal government, levy war against the United States, steal federal property, and a number of other acts. [24]

Section 2 originally provided for both criminal and civil liability, but the criminal component was later found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the 1883 case United States v. Harris, and ultimately repealed by Congress. [25] The civil liability portion of Section 2 survived with amendments and were later codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1985, known as "Section 1985". Section 1985 authorizes lawsuits against people who conspire to commit certain prohibited acts, such as interfering with government, obstructing justice, or depriving a person of equal protection under the law. [26]

Section 1985(1) covers conspiracies to violently prevent a public official from taking office or to "molest, interrupt, hinder, or impede" the discharge of official duties, among other acts. [27] Section 1985(2) addresses conspiracies to harm or threaten witnesses and jurors in federal courts, or to otherwise interfere with court proceedings, "with intent to deny to any citizen the equal protection of the laws". [28]

In a reference to the Klan's practice of wearing face-covering hoods, Section 1985(3) prohibits two or more people from traveling in disguise or otherwise conspiring to deprive a person or class of people of equal protection of the law or other legal rights. [29] In addition, Section 1985(3) contains the "support-or-advocacy clauses", which cover conspiracies to harm citizens because of their support or advocacy for a federal candidate for public office. [30]

Section 6 of the Act, now codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1986 and known as "Section 1986", imposes civil liability upon persons who know of a violation of Section 1985 or a planned violation of Section 1985, and who are in a position to prevent it, but who fail to prevent it, fail to attempt to prevent it, or fail to assist in its prevention. [31] While the other sections create a remedy against conspirators who deprived people of their rights, Section 1986 creates a remedy against persons whose acquiescence make such conspiracies possible. Legislators recognized that the Klan's political violence could not continue without tacit approval from local community leaders, and sought to stop the Klan by making community leaders financially responsible for terrorist acts they knowingly fail to prevent. This section of the Act has been rarely invoked since its enactment, but is used to combat terrorism in modern times by providing a "disincentive to those who would protect or foster conspiratorial terrorist acts". [32]

Section 3 authorized the president to use the military to suppress domestic violence and conspiracies to deprive people of their constitutional rights. [33]

Section 4 authorized the president to suspend the writ of habeas corpus to suppress a rebellion. [34] This section expired after one year. [35]

Section 5 barred persons violating the Act from sitting as jurors in any proceeding under the Act, and imposed an oath upon jurors not to violate the Act. [36]

Section 7 provided, "nothing herein contained shall be construed to supersede or repeal any former act or law except so far as the same may be repugnant thereto", and that prosecutions "shall be continued and completed, the same as if this act had not been passed, except so far as the provisions of this act may go to sustain and validate such proceedings". [37]

Although some provisions were ruled unconstitutional in 1883, [38] the 1870 Force Act and the 1871 Civil Rights Act have been invoked in later civil rights conflicts, including the 1964 murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner the 1965 murder of Viola Liuzzo and in Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic, 506 U.S. 263 (1993), in which the court ruled that "The first clause of 1985(3) does not provide a federal cause of action against persons obstructing access to abortion clinics."

It was also used in the 1969 case of Tinker v. Des Moines. By the time Beth Tinker was in school, the law had expanded to make even school boards liable if they stood in the way of people's federally protected rights.

Today, the 1871 Civil Rights Act can be invoked whenever a state actor violates a federally guaranteed right. The most common use today is to redress violations of the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizure. [ citation needed ] Such lawsuits concern false arrest and police brutality, most notably in the Rodney King case. The rise of the Black Lives Matter movement along with smart phone video cameras have made Section 1983 lawsuits easier to obtain because of technological advances, including bodycams worn by law enforcement.

The Act was invoked in the 2010 Robbins v. Lower Merion School District case, where plaintiffs charged two suburban Philadelphia high schools secretly spied on students by surreptitiously and remotely activating webcams embedded in school-issued laptops the students were using at home, violating their right to privacy. The schools admitted to snapping over 66,000 webshots and screenshots secretly, including webcam shots of students in their bedrooms. [39] [40]

The 2019 Supreme Court case Nieves v. Bartlett ruled that in general when probable cause for an arrest exists it overrides a First Amendment retaliatory arrest claim arising under section 1983, but that there are some narrow exceptions to this. Because officers can exercise their discretion in making arrests for warrantless misdemeanor crimes, a plaintiff can succeed on a section 1983 claim if they can present objective evidence that other similarly situated individuals who were not engaged in protected speech had not been arrested. [41]

Also in 2019, the Court held that the 3-year statute of limitations for a fabrication of evidence civil lawsuit under section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act begins to run when the criminal case ends in the plaintiff's favor. [42]

In June 2020 the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit rejected qualified immunity for five Police officers in West Virginia who had kicked, beaten, tased, and finally killed Wayne O. Jones, by shooting him 22 times. [43]

Democrats and Republicans from the Southern states opposed the bill and led an unsuccessful 83-day filibuster, including Senators Albert Gore, Sr. (D-TN) and J. William Fulbright (D-AR), as well as Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), who personally filibustered for 14 hours straight.

The Civil Rights Act of 1875 had little impact on the South. This law was designed to allow all people to have equal access to public accommodations. However, this law had very little impact on the South.

The Civil Rights Cases of 1883 were brought to the courts attention by several African American citizens who felt as if their rights were being violated as they were denied service by several white business owners. Though this was reviewed as one Supreme Court Case it did not come to the Supreme Court in said fashion. This case consisted of five lower appellate court cases that all shared the commonality of using the Civil Rights Act of 1875 to support their arguments of discriminatory acts brought against them. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 stated that all people shall be granted equal rights when dealing with services being provided by a business or establishment. After not receiving the same privileges as white Americans the journey of the Civil Rights Cases of 1883 began as black Americans decided to file suits.

Privately owned businesses serve as the defendants in this case. As the case began white business owners clearly had the upper hand as the case took place during an era when discrimination was something that was not foreign to American culture. The defendants of this case provided a counter argument stating that their constitutional rights were being infringed upon as the Civil Rights Act of 1875 required that they serve everyone. Being that these businesses were privately owned and not state businesses the defendants felt as if they did not have to abide by the rules implicated by the federal government they felt that the decision of who they welcomed or did not welcome was a private matter. The court agreed.

Civil Rights Act of 1968

The final major piece of civil rights legislation of the decade was designed to extend the legal protections outlawing racial discrimination beyond the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 1966 President Johnson called for additional legislation to protect the safety of civil rights workers, end discrimination in jury selection, and eliminate restrictions on the sale or rental of housing. Over the next two years, opposition to this legislation emerged from both parties, leading to a protracted battle that culminated in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. 115

Finding legislative solutions to racial discrimination was an important component of President Johnson’s Great Society, which initiated new roles for the federal government in protecting the civil and political rights of individuals and promoting social and economic justice. Benefitting from Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, the Johnson administration instituted immigration reforms and created federally funded programs to stimulate urban development, bolster consumer protection, strengthen environmental regulations, fund education programs, and expand the social safety net by providing health coverage through Medicare and Medicaid. 116 President Johnson made the case that fulfilling the promise of his Great Society agenda required additional action to strengthen individual rights, including the prohibition of discrimination in the sale or rental of housing.

/tiles/non-collection/b/baic_cont_3_lbj_sign_cra_1968_brooks_lbj_library.xml Photograph by Yoichi Okamoto image courtesy of the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library/National Archives and Records Administration President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 on April 11, 1968. The act prohibited discrimination in the sale or rental of approximately 80 percent of the housing in the U.S. Newly elected Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts (fourth from left) attended the signing.

During the tumultuous summer of 1967, access to housing was at the forefront of a national discussion on urban policy, particularly after violence erupted in cities such as Detroit and Newark, New Jersey. House Democrats were unable to attract support for a fair housing bill in the summer of 1967. But the House did pass a narrow civil rights bill on August 15, 1967, which established federal penalties for anyone forcibly interfering with the civil and political rights of individuals. The bill specified that civil rights workers would be afforded similar protections when serving as advocates for those trying to exercise their rights. 119

Opponents attacked the administration’s civil rights bill as an unconstitutional intervention in a matter best addressed by the states. Many justified their resistance to the proposed legislation by highlighting the riots that broke out in July 1967. 120 Representative Conyers rejected this argument. Instead, he said, this bill is “about the problem of protecting Americans, both black and white, North and South, who are caught up in an attempt to exercise civil rights that are guaranteed them under existing laws of this country.” 121

In the Senate, Republicans joined segregationist Democrats in what seemed to be formidable opposition to the bill. When the upper chamber finally began to debate the legislation in February 1968, Senator Brooke joined with Senator Walter Mondale of Minnesota to draft an amendment designed to prohibit discrimination in the sale or rental of 91 percent of all housing in the nation. On the Senate Floor, Brooke described the way segregated neighborhoods, typically far from employment opportunities, did extensive damage to the African-American community. 122 This placed an additional financial burden on black families, he noted, as they often paid similar prices as those in white neighborhoods without similar investments in the quality of housing, social services, and schools. Brooke added that he could “testify from personal experience, having lived in the ghetto,” that these limitations have a significant “psychological impact” on the majority of African Americans searching for a home. 123 “In the hierarchy of American values there can be no higher standard than equal justice for each individual,” Brooke declared. “By that standard, who could question the right of every American to compete on equal terms for adequate housing for his family?” 124

As with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois was the bellwether for Republican support. When he declared that he was open to supporting the fair housing amendment with some revisions, negotiations began between the parties. The final bill included several concessions to Dirksen, such as reducing the housing covered by the fair housing provision. Also, an amendment was added to the bill to attract the support of Senators who had been reluctant to vote for the civil rights bill, which made it a federal crime to cross state lines to participate in a riot. An additional amendment prohibited Native American tribal governments from restricting the exercise of specific constitutional rights on their lands. 125 The compromise bill passed the Senate and returned to the House on March 11, 1968.

The chairman of the House Rules Committee, William Colmer of Mississippi, was the final obstacle to the bill’s passage. For decades, opponents on the Rules Committee blocked civil rights initiatives, and Colmer sought to keep the Senate bill off the floor by sending it to a conference committee, where it could be debated and revised, or simply stalled, by Members. On April 4—the day before the Rules Committee was scheduled to vote on whether to send the bill to the House Floor or to send it to conference—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was campaigning in support of striking sanitation workers. The Rules Committee postponed its vote. A violent weekend in cities across the nation resulted in 46 people killed, thousands injured, and millions of dollars in property damage before the National Guard helped quelled the disturbances. 126 Washington, DC, suffered extensive damage and federal troops patrolled the Capitol when the Rules Committee met the following week. Unexpectedly, a majority of the committee defied the chairman and voted to send the bill to the floor. 127

In the heated House debate that followed, opponents made passage of the bill a referendum on the weekend of violence in the nation’s cities. Representative Joseph D. Waggonner of Louisiana warned that the House was being “blackmailed” by the rioters—forcing Members to pass the bill under threat of violence. 128 Representative John Ashbrook of Ohio objected on constitutional grounds, emphasizing that the sale or rental of housing regulation was a concern for the states and local municipalities. 129 Supporters, however, praised the bill as a necessary reform that would extend equal rights to a significant segment of American society, and many spoke of the need to vote for the bill in response to the tragic murder of Dr. King. 130

Less than a week later, the House approved the Senate bill by a vote of 250 to 172, and President Johnson signed it into law on April 11, 1968. 131 The measure extended federal penalties for civil rights infractions, protected civil rights workers, and outlawed discrimination by race, creed, national origin, or sex in the sale and rental of roughly 80 percent of U.S. housing by 1970. The enforcement mechanisms of the fair housing provision, however, ended up being somewhat limited in that it required private individuals or advocacy groups to file suit against housing discrimination. 132

Civil Rights Act Unconstitutional - History

In 1883, The United States Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Rights act of 1875, forbidding discrimination in hotels, trains, and other public spaces, was unconstitutional and not authorized by the 13th or 14th Amendments of the Constitution. The ruling read in part:

"The XIVth Amendment is prohibitory upon the States only, and the legislation authorized to be adopted by Congress for enforcing it is not direct legislation on the matters respecting which the States are prohibited from making or enforcing certain laws, or doing certain acts, but it is corrective legislation, such as may be necessary or proper for counteracting and redressing the effect of such laws or acts.

"The XIIIth Amendment relates to slavery and involuntary servitude (which it abolishes) . yet such legislative power extends only to the subject of slavery and its incidents and the denial of equal accommodations in inns, public conveyances and places of public amusement (which is forbidden by the sections in question), imposes no badge of slavery or involuntary servitude upon the party, but at most, infringes rights which are protected from State aggression by the XIVth Amendment."

The decision outraged the black community and many whites as well, for they felt it opened the door to legalized segregation. Bishop Henry McNeil Turner raged at the court for its decision: "The world has never witnessed such barbarous laws entailed upon a free people as have grown out of the decision of the United States Supreme Court, issued October 15, 1883. For that decision alone authorized and now sustains all the unjust discriminations, proscriptions and robberies perpetrated by public carriers upon millions of the nation's most loyal defenders. It fathers all the 'Jim-Crow cars' into which colored people are huddled and compelled to pay as much as the whites, who are given the finest accommodations. It has made the ballot of the black man a parody, his citizenship a nullity and his freedom a burlesque. It has engendered the bitterest feeling between the whites and blacks, and resulted in the deaths of thousands, who would have been living and enjoying life today." One of the justices on the court, John Harlan, gave a now-famous dissent, writing, "Whereas it is essential to just government we recognize the equality of all men before the law, and hold that it is the duty of government in its dealings with the people to mete out equal and exact justice to all, of whatever nativity, race, color, or persuasion, religious or political and it being the appropriate object of legislation to enact great fundamental principles into law I am of opinion that such discrimination is a badge of servitude, the imposition of which congress may prevent under its power, through appropriate legislation, to enforce the thirteenth Amendment and consequently, without reference to its enlarged power under the fourteenth Amendment, the act of March 1, 1875, is not, in my judgment, repugnant to the constitution." African Americans would have to wait until 1964 before Congress would again pass a civil-rights law, this time constitutionally acceptable, that would forbid discrimination in public accommodations, employment, and unions.

A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States: 1965 Voting Rights Act

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 offered African Americans a way to circumvent state and local barriers that prevented them from exercising their 15th Amendment right to vote. After the act was signed into law by LBJ, Congress amended it five more times to expand its scope and offer more protections. This law has been called one of the most effective pieces of civil rights legislation ever enacted by the Department of Justice. Its gutting by the Shelby County v. Holder decision in 2013 led to more restrictive voting laws in at least 7 states.

Sections 4(b) and 5 of the Voting Rights Act were by Shelby County decision. Section 4(b) contained a coverage formula that encompassed the most pervasively discriminatory jurisdictions and held them liable to special provisions within the Voting Rights Act. This ensured that previously-barred minorities within those jurisdictions would be protected and able to practice their right to vote. The coverage formula was always considered controversial because it singled out specific jurisdictions, most of which were in the Deep South. In Shelby County, the Supreme Court declared the coverage formula unconstitutional because it used outdated criteria and thus violated principles of equal state sovereignty and federalism. Other special provisions that were dependent on the coverage formula, such as the Section 5 pre-clearance requirement remained valid law, but without a valid coverage formula these provisions became unenforceable. The pre-clearance requirement meant jurisdictions that fell under 4(b) had to get federal approval for any changes they attempted to make in their election laws. With the removal of this requirement, states with a history of discriminatory behavior could now make changes without federal approval.

Government cant force the private sector to serve who they want, and it was unnecessary.

Generally speaking this act was unneeded, all that needed to be done was to enforce the Brown vs. Board of Ed. Decision. Also, like many cases, it abused the commerce clause to do away with states rights and establish state supremacy. This led to further judicial activism.

Not to mention the greatest offense being titles II and VII, which not only made private businesses "public" but also made it so the federal government through force could decide the actions business owners take. The free market already regulates these businesses by putting them at a competitive disadvantage if they choose not to serve a group a people that can do business with another establishment that will serve them.

The civil rights law that wasn’t: Learning from the Civil Rights Act of 1875, declared unconstitutional on this day in history

Oct. 15 is one of the most “barbarous” moments in American history, but it’s a day far too few Americans know.

On this day in 1883, 137 years ago, in an 8-1 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the 1875 Civil Rights Act, which gave African Americans the right to equal access to public accommodations, was deemed unconstitutional. The 1875 Civil Rights Act was the only federal law that prohibited racial discrimination by individuals or private businesses. A conservative court abolished this right.

African Americans across the country were horrified. Henry McNeal Turner, a prominent Black bishop, slammed the decision, writing, “The world has never witnessed such barbarous laws entailed upon a free people as have grown out of the decision of the United States Supreme Court, issued October 15, 1883.”

Frederick Douglass famously said during a speech on Oct. 23, 1883, in Washington, D.C., “This decision has inflicted a heavy calamity upon the 7 millions of the colored people of this country, and left them naked and defenseless against the action of a malignant, vulgar and pitiless prejudice.”

Indeed during Reconstruction, which would end with the Comprise of 1877, true progress seemed possible. When nearly 180,000 Black men helped the North win the Civil War, ultimately resulting in the emancipation of themselves and their families, they thought they were progressing to freedom. When Black men (women could not vote) voted in 1868 and over 2,000 African Americans were elected in southern states, finally gaining a piece of political power, they were ready to build.

There was a hope for a true reconstructing of race and class.

Nonetheless, others were afraid. They claimed freedom for Blacks meant their rights were threatened, and those delusions manifested to the highest court in the land.

The Supreme Court ruling of 1883 created a domino effect. By 1890, every southern state had a constitutional convention to erode the right of Black men to vote. In 1898, Plessy vs. Ferguson upheld racial segregation with the lie of “separate but equal.”

The Trump administration is unapologetically steeped in corruption, its dissenters are punished and the only way their king can avoid repercussions is by ensuring that he remains in office by any means necessary. The checks and balances of Congress that may have existed for previous presidents are nowhere to be found in the cult of Trump.

After rolling back countless civil liberties for nearly four years, Trump is now ramming through Amy Coney Barrett, a constitutional “originalist,” a term that would terrify Black Americans in the 18th century and should certainly worry many of us now. Barrett is a judge who does not believe a Black man hearing the n-word by a supervisor creates a “hostile or abusive” work environment — and this is someone who has adopted Black children. There are concerns about Roe v. Wade and the rights of the LGBTQ community.

But there is something equally insidious in the conservative, Trump-leaning court.

Everything is up for grabs, including the 1968 Fair Housing Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Acts, which is already hanging by a thread, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

Watch the video: Civil Rights Act 1957 (August 2022).