Civil Rights Act 1875

What was happening in 1875?

American Civil War started in 1861 and continued until 1865. This war was fought between the northern and southern states of USA. The northern states wanted to end slavery in USA while the southern states supported it.

At the end of the war, the northern states had won and slavery was abolished in all America. However, although the African-American citizens were now free, they still didn’t have equal rights, especially in the southern states where they were barred from voting, education and other privileges.

Why was the Civil Rights Act passed?

After the Civil War had ended, the US government helped the southern states rebuild their infrastructure and economy which had been damaged during the war. This was known as the Reconstruction Era. Another important part of the Reconstruction Era was that the federal government tried to ensure equal rights for all, especially the African-American citizens who had been freed from slavery in the southern states. The Civil Rights Act was a part of this effort.

When was the Civil Rights Act passed?

Soon after the war was over, prominent members of the U.S. Congress started efforts to create such laws which would guarantee the rights of African-Americans in southern states. Work on the Civil Rights Act started in 1870. An early draft of the bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Charles Sumner on May 13, 1870.

But it took a long while for the Congress to debate about the bill and to make some changes. It was finally passed by the House of Representatives on February 4, 1875 and ratified by the U.S. Senate on February 27, 1875. President Ulysses S. Grant then signed the bill on March 1, 1875 and it became a federal law.

What was written in the Civil Rights Act?

The laws included in the Civil Rights Act stated that every American citizen would have equal access to public accommodation, churches, theaters, public transportation, schools, restaurants and other public places. The Act stated that no American citizen should be discriminated against on the basis of race. This was meant to ensure that the African-American population in the southern states had an equal access to basic rights of an American citizen.

Aftermath of the Civil Rights Act

The Civil Rights Act provoked a lot of controversy in the southern states. The southern states had been defeated in the Civil War and during the Reconstruction Era, federal troops remained stationed in the southern states. Although the U.S. Congress had abolished slavery, the southern states were not ready to give equal rights to the freed slaves and the African-American population at large.

So there was a lot of opposition to the Civil Rights Act. Most of the laws of the Act were ignored by the governments in the southern states and African-American population continued to face discrimination. The Civil Rights Act also had many legal problems.

Southern states held that the federal government had no right to govern the conduct of private businesses. This was confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court who ruled that the federal government could not dictate individuals or organizations regarding their racial policies. The Supreme Court declared that parts of the Act were unconstitutional.

Civil Rights Act of 1875: A Reexamination Paperback – November 15, 2008