Bryan Caplan  

Ever Hear of the Civil Rights Act of 1875?

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The Actual Civil Rights Act... Retirement Policy Question...
Me neither:
The act was passed by Congress in February, 1875 and signed by President Grant on March 1, 1875. It was declared unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in 1883...

The Act guaranteed that everyone, regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude, was entitled to the same treatment in "public accommodations" (i.e. inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement).

If found guilty, the lawbreaker could face a penalty anywhere from $500 to $1,000 and/or 30 days to 1 year in prison.

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COMMENTS (2 to date)
Prakhar Goel writes:

Memories of a (slightly?) better time. At least in terms of the scope of federal govt.

Pandaemoni writes:

Interestingly, the Civil Rights Cases, in which the Supreme Court struck down that law, were all cases of private segregation in public accomodations (in the North and South, and a sfar afield as San Francisco), not segregation compelled by law. In fact, the court assumed that the aggrieved plaintiffs could sue under state law and win, saying "Innkeepers and public carriers, by the laws of all the states, so far as we are aware, are bound, to the extent of their facilities, to furnish proper accommodation to all unobjectionable persons who in good faith apply for them."

This case is also why it is asserted that the 1964 Civil Rights Act ban on discrimination in public accomodations is based on the Commerce Clause, and not the 14th amendment. The Supreme Court, in dicta, said that there was no bvasis for Congress to pass such a aw other than under the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, but that issue was never specifically argued by anyone, so that statement not binding precedent.

The case itself was viewed by many as a signal that the door was open to legal segregation, and legal segregation rose sharply after it (though not necessarily "because" of the case alone), leading up to Plessy v. Fergusson, when it was deeply entrenched. One particularly outraged opponent, Bishop Henry McNeil Turner, railed:

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.

There was also, by the way, a Civil Rights Act of 1866.

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