What was the Supreme Court's reaction to the 1875 Civil Rights Act? The measure was deemed unlawful since the Constitution only protects against private discrimination, not state discrimination. Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote the majority opinion in City of Memphis v. Shelby County, which held that the 14th Amendment did apply to the states and thus their actions could be challenged in court.
The decision was met with outrage from many members of the public who believed it to be a violation of state sovereignty. One such person was Senator James Henry Hammond of South Carolina who led a boycott of the city until Memphis repealed its ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on race or color. In 1938, Congress passed the Fair Housing Act which effectively overturned the decision by prohibiting housing practices that exclude people based on race or color.
In his dissent, Justice John Marshall Harlan argued that if states cannot discriminate between themselves, then they cannot discriminate between individuals within their borders. He also believed that since laws prohibiting slavery had been previously declared unconstitutional, then so too should laws prohibiting racial discrimination. This argument would later be used by former slaves and their supporters to prove that slavery was legal in all states and territories under the Constitution. It failed, however, to convince either majority member of the court that slavery was ever intended to be included within the scope of constitutional protection.
In the seminal civil rights decisions, the United States Supreme Court concluded in 1883 that Congress lacked the authority to ban discrimination in the private sector, thereby removing most of the Civil Rights Act of 1875's capacity to defend civil rights. The high court's decision was a major setback for African-Americans who were seeking equal treatment under the law.
The court based its conclusion on its interpretation of the Commerce Clause, which gives Congress the power "to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several states." In his opinion for the court, Justice John Marshall Harlan II wrote that Congress could regulate only activity that directly affected interstate commerce or trade with other countries. He also argued that racial discrimination was not a valid reason to limit access to markets because it violated the fundamental principle of free competition.
Harlan's opinion drew strong criticism from members of Congress and others who believed that the court had put profit ahead of justice. One critic called it "a terrible decision" that would "ensure the exclusion of [African-Americans] from all public places where business is done". Another said that it showed that the court was "more anxious to protect millionaires than men who have no money".
While Harlan's opinion provided a legal justification for discrimination, it didn't go so far as to say that it was acceptable.
The Civil Rights Cases were five legal cases that the United States Supreme Court consolidated (due to their similarities) into a single ruling on October 15, 1883, in which the court declared the Civil Rights Act of 1875 unconstitutional, sparking Jim Crow laws that codified previously private, informal, and local...
The cases involved black citizens of Georgia who had filed suit after being denied access to public facilities such as schools and theaters. A state law at the time prohibited interracial marriage. The plaintiffs argued that the law violated their right to enter into contracts with whites without government interference and also deprived them of their property rights without due process of law. They won their cases before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, but the state appealed the decisions to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
In an opinion by Chief Justice Waite, the Supreme Court ruled 7-0 that neither section 1 nor section 2 of the Civil Rights Act authorized federal courts to issue injunctions against states or their officials. It concluded by stating that "we perceive no reason why slavery or its equivalents may not be forbidden by law." In other words, since slavery was legal when the act was passed, it could not be outlawed by Congress under its powers in Article I of the Constitution.
Although this decision was widely viewed as having ended federal efforts to protect blacks' rights, African Americans continued to fight for equality.
The Supreme Court had a critical role in both repressing and assisting the Civil Rights Movement. The Supreme Court is likely best remembered for its ruling in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. According to Kevern Verney, this is a "direct reverse of the Plessy v. Ferguson decision." In that case, the court allowed Louisiana to continue to segregate schools under a "separate but equal" policy. In other words, racism was acceptable as long as it wasn't too overt.
However, the Supreme Court also made rulings that helped advance racial equality. One example is in 1968's Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co., which ruled that public contractors cannot discriminate against minorities when awarding contracts. The court also ruled that separate drinking fountains were not adequate under law. This means that black people could not simply drink from any fountain they wanted in southern businesses. They needed their own designated fountain.
In addition to these specific cases, the Supreme Court also played an important role in amplifying the voices of activists through its decisions on constitutional issues. For example, in 1937, the court decided New York City Transit Authority v. Beazer, which found that segregated public transportation was unconstitutional. In another case that same year, Shelley v. Kraemer, the court ruled that requiring white homeowners to sell their houses to blacks violated their right to buy and sell property independently.
The Civil Rights Act of 1875 (18 Stat. 335–337), also known as the Enforcement Act or Force Act, was a federal law enacted in the United States during the Reconstruction Era that guaranteed African Americans equal treatment in public accommodations and public transportation and prohibited exclusion from jury service. The act was authored by Senator John C. Spooner of Wisconsin and Representative James A. Garfield of Ohio.
Key provisions included: banning discrimination in public facilities used by the general public, such as schools, hospitals, libraries, and restaurants; providing for injunctive relief for violations of rights under the act; and authorizing the attorney general to file suit on behalf of aggrieved persons. The act was designed to protect blacks' rights after they were restored to power following the Civil War, when many former slaves did not have access to these facilities due to racism of store owners and managers. It was also intended to ensure that their civil rights would be protected by all states and the federal government.
In addition to banning discrimination in public facilities, the act provided for legal remedies if such practices were found to exist. This provision was particularly important since there was no federal police force at this time and therefore citizens were left with no choice but to seek justice through the courts.
Finally, the act authorized the attorney general to file suit on behalf of individuals who were denied services or subjected to other discrimination.