8.11 - Reconstruction and the 1875 Civil Rights Act

Document-based Lesson
Based on documents and lesson planning
from the National Archives
1875 Civil Rights Act
 Passed by Congress in March 1875
 "all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States
shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the
accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of
inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and
other places of public amusement," and that such
enjoyment should be subject "only to the conditions and
limitations established by law, and applicable alike to
citizens of every race and color, regardless of any previous
condition of servitude."
 If a person is found guilty, they were to be fined
$500-$1,000 or jailed for 30 days
 Enforcement for the law was the responsibility of the
federal courts and the U.S. Attorney
 If the case was not prosecuted, the U.S. Attorney had
to pay the claimant $500 and can be fined $1,000$5,000
 President Grant did not comment on the bill
 U.S. Attorney across the U.S. wrote to the
Department of Justice obtain copies of the bill
Court Cases
 Between 1875 and 1877 African Americans
throughout the U.S. were taking advantage of the
law and filing complaints when they were met with
 Read the court case
 Summarize the case and the act of discrimination
 Discuss the presentation of the case
 Discuss the verdict if it is given
 Share out your case
Judicial Response
 Judges stated that the law
was constitutional
 Robert Dick of North
Carolina in April 1875
The constitutionality of the Civil
Rights bill has been asserted by
the deliberate action of Congress,
composed of many able lawyers
and wise and enlightened
statesmen, and it would be very
presumptuous in me, collaterally
and without argument, to decide
differently upon a question
which that body carefully
considered and acted upon under
the solemn sanction of official
 Others found it
unconstitutional and relied
on the notion of separate but
 Judge Thomas H. Duval
of Texas in 1877
" If there are two cars equally fit
and appropriate, in a respects,
for use of white female
passengers and for colored
female passengers, there is no
offence of denying a colored
female passenger entrance to one
and requiring her to ride in the
Supreme Court
 Not until 1883 did the Supreme Court rule on the
constitutionality of the Civil Rights law of 1875
 Davis case was one of several decided by this ruling
 The Supreme Court declared that Congress had no power
to pass laws regulating individuals unless it a direct
power given to them
 "But where a subject is not submitted to the general legislative
power of Congress, but is only submitted thereto for the purpose
of rendering effective some prohibition against particular state
legislation or state action in reference to that subject, the power
given is limited to its object, and any legislation by Congress in
the matter must necessarily be corrective in its character."
 How did definitions of citizenship evolve through
the establishment and overturning of the 1875 Civil
Rights Act?

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