On this date in 1875 …

… President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1875

This tends to surprise many people, even those who can refer to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, maybe even the Act of 1957.  But it’s a bit of a shock that Civil Rights was the topic of an act of Congress only ten years after the end of The Civil War.  Yet political and legal battles would be waged for almost another century before full civil rights law was established.   

The 1875 Act was written in an attempt to provide equal access to public accommodations such as restaurants, trains, theatres, etc.  The reason why so many have problems recognizing the earliest civil rights law was that it was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1883.  Its rejection by the country’s highest court was based on the law’s lack of standing within the context of the 13th and 14th Amendments.  Fact is, in its eight-year existence the 1875 Act was rarely – if ever – enforced anyway. 

What is most telling to me, is the realization as early as the 1870s that only reliance upon national law held any potential for mitigating the heinous treatment of African-Americans, both pre-Civil War freemen and newly liberated slaves.  And that despite this realization, it would take another 89 years before full civil rights legislation was enacted.      

In 1957, the Civil Rights Act of 1957 provided voting rights to black Americans in a way that was ineffectual in increasing their political power.  Then-Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson is touted with the tricky political accomplishment of both progressing the measure through Congress, while at the same time ensuring the bill’s evisceration by assigning it to a Judiciary Committee run by anti-civil rights Senator James Eastland (MS).  The bill’s eventual passage also had to survive the longest lasting Senate filibuster by Senator Strom Thurmond, who railed on about nothing in particular for 24 hours, 18 minutes.      

It would not be until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that full civil rights to women as well as blacks would be institutionalized.  Oddly enough, the Act of 1964 was signed into law by the very same, now-President Lyndon Baines Johnson, after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.

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4 thoughts on “On this date in 1875 …

  1. Nice insights on the Civil Rights Bill. Am I hearing you right, is it possible that the Republican President Grant championed civil rights (at a time when it was more difficult / dangerous politically and personally to do so), and a beloved Democrat Senate leader and another Democrat longtime Senate leader made very calculated and false efforts to address civil rights while working to defeat it? I am shocked, I thought that the evil Republicans were against minorities and the Democrats were their only advocates?

    As I recall when the 1965 bill was being legislated wasn’t it a fact that Democrats did not support the bill, which meant it’s ultimate demise however, the bill was passed by Republicans who backed it more strongly than did Democrats? From what party was that President that led the country to war (the only nation which fought a war to rid it’s land of slavery) to eliminate the slavery question finally?

    So how are Republicans presented as the party of racial division in this country? That is what the race-baiting Liberals, their close associates in the media, and the practitioners of racial demagoguery as a money making industry would like everyone to believe.

    By the way I recommend Grant’s Memoirs which show the mettle Grant was made of. His Presidency was overshadowed by scandal which resulted from his ill placed trust placed in appointees and friends who sought to make themselves rich.

    • Funny how so few people recognize the fact that the South was SOLID Democrat throughout the ’60s and ’70s, when the worst modern-day atrocities were committed against blacks there … not to mention the Civil War. The Democrats were the party working to preserve the South’s way of life, particularly the racial divide. It was the Democrats who filibustered the Civil Rights Act in ’57; they were the ones who stood in the doorways of school, rather than see them desegregated; they were the ones who resisted change down.

      Funny also that it was AFTER most civil rights measures were in place that the South started moving towards the GOP.

  2. I tend to get the jitters now if I don’t post SOMETHING every few days. Unfortunately, I have also been fighting a block on anything original and creative. So I fall back on one of my favorite subjects, U.S. history.

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