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Summary of Federal Civil Rights Policy
Early Stages: between 1866 and 1875, Congress passed several civil rights
acts to enforce the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, allowing
the federal government to impose heavy penalties for violations.
The Civil Rights Act of 1866: This act granted black citizens equal rights to
contract, to sue and be sued, to marry, travel, and own property. It made all citizens
subject to "like punishment, pains and penalties." Any person guilty of depriving
citizens of their stated rights because of race, color, or previous condition of servitude
could be fined, imprisoned or both.
The Reconstruction Act of 1867: This act allowed former slaves to participate fully
in the political arena. As a result, African Americans sat in constitutional conventions,
helped draft state constitutions, and supported new comprehensive programs for state
education in the South.
The Enforcement Act of 1870: This act stated that all citizens otherwise qualified to
vote in any election should not be denied the vote because of race. States could set
up prerequisites for voting, but all persons were to have equal access to the vote.
The Civil Rights Act of 1871: This act set up a system of federal supervision of
elections within the states in order to stop illegal voter registration practices.
The Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871: This act was intended to protect black citizens
against intimidation by illegal action, such as by the KKK, in cases where states could
not, or would not, provide protection.
The Civil Rights Act of 1875: This act entitled all persons the "full and equal
enjoyment" of public accommodations, such as hotels, transportation or theaters. It
granted blacks the right to sue for personal damages, and allowed any qualified
person to serve as a juror. This was the last piece of civil rights legislation passed by
the United States Congress until 1957.
Federal Civil Rights Policies
WWII ~1964~beyond
Executive Order #8802: Establishing the President’s Committee on Fair
Employment Practices (CFEP), issued by President Roosevelt, June 25,
Smith v. Allright (1944)
Executive Order #9981: Barring segregation in the United States armed
forces, issued by President Harry S. Truman, July 26, 1948
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954)
The Civil Rights Act of 1957: Though relatively weak, this was the first time
since Reconstruction that Congress had passed legislation to help protect
the civil rights of black Americans. The bill created a permanent Civil
Rights Commission, upgraded the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Section
to a division headed by an assistant attorney general, and established
greater power for the Justice Department to protect voting rights.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964: Major Features
(Public Law 88-352)
Title I
Barred unequal application of voter registration requirements, but did not abolish literacy
tests sometimes used to disqualify African Americans and poor white voters.
Title II
Outlawed discrimination in hotels, motels, restaurants, theaters, and all other public
accommodations engaged in interstate commerce; exempted private clubs without
defining "private," thereby allowing a loophole.
Title III
Encouraged the desegregation of public schools and authorized the U. S. Attorney
General to file suits to force desegregation, but did not authorize busing as a means to
overcome segregation based on residence.
Title IV
Authorized but did not require withdrawal of federal funds from programs which
practiced discrimination.
Title V
Outlawed discrimination in employment in any business exceeding twenty five people
and creates an Equal Employment Opportunities Commission to review complaints,
although it lacked meaningful enforcement powers.
Title VI
“Simple justice requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of all races [colors, and
national origins] contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, entrenches,
subsidizes or results in racial [color or national origin] discrimination”
Title VII
“Protects individuals against employment discrimination on the basis of race and color as
well as national origin, sex, or religion.” Created the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC) to implement it.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965: Empowered the federal government to oversee
voter registration and elections in counties that had used tests to determine voter
eligibility or where registration or turnout had been less than 50% in the 1964
presidential election. It also banned discriminatory literacy tests and expanded voting
rights for non-English speaking Americans. The Voting Rights Act was extended in 1970,
1975, and 1982. In general, it re-enfranchised black southerners, helping elect African
Americans at the local, state, and national levels.
Harper v. Virginia (1966) held that the 14th Amendment forbids making a tax a
condition of voting in any election.
Title VIII and Jones v. Mayer (1968)
“Prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings based on race,
color, religion, sex or national origin.” Known as The Fair Housing Act.
Title IX
Within the Education Act of 1972, this law forbade gender discrimination in education
programs, including athletics that received federal dollars.