A series of federal laws to ensure equal treatment of citizens who, because of membership in a particular group, suffered unequal treatment at the hands of the various states or individuals.
Following the Civil War (1861-1865), Congress approved the Civil Rights Act of 1866
For example, in Monroe v. Pape
The Court also affirmed basic provisions of liberty mandated by the Civil Rights Act of 1866. In Buchanan v. Warley
The Harper’s Weekly illustration depicts the response of people gathered outside the galleries of the house of Representatives after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1866.
Although Reconstruction era statutes could and did protect minorities to some degree from discrimination by municipal and state governments, discriminatory actions by private citizens remained outside the scope of federal law and the enforcement power of the federal courts into the 1960’s. Congress had passed the Civil Rights Act of 1875
The result of this decision and others, such as Plessy v. Ferguson
Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and the Civil Rights Act of 1960 to deal with deprivation of voting rights of blacks by southern states and their white citizens.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also overturned the practice of racially segregating public facilities, such as swimming pools and public restrooms. States and municipalities could lose their federal funding for failure to desegregate their public accommodations. The Court affirmed the power of Congress to compel desegregation of public facilities in Daniel v. Paul
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also broadened the federal approach to civil rights. Race, color, religion, and national origin appear among the enumerated list of classifications that cannot be used for discriminatory purposes.
For example, in Griggs v. Duke Power Co.
Typically, however, the Court has been loathe to order promotional quotas and modify hiring practices. In Washington v. Davis
Indeed, in Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio
The relationship between sex discrimination
That changed significantly in Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co.
In keeping with the judicial spirit of the Jones decision, Congress further strengthened its claim to regulate private contracts in housing by passing the Civil Rights Act of 1968. This act prohibited discrimination in advertising, financing, selling, or renting a house on the grounds of race, religion, or national origin. Amended in 1974 to include sex, this fair housing law primarily affects owners of apartment complexes and anyone buying or selling through a realtor.
The Court has given the Civil Rights Act of 1968
Henry J. Abraham and Barbara Perry’s Freedom and the Court (7th ed., New York: Oxford University Press, 1994) and Lee Epstein and Thomas Walker’s Constitutional Law for a Changing America: Rights, Liberties, and Justice (3d ed., Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 1998) provide context for and analysis of the Court’s use of civil rights acts. More focused studies include John R. Howard’s The Shifting Wind: The Supreme Court and Civil Rights from Reconstruction to Brown (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999), which examines the fate of early civil rights acts, and Abraham Davis and Barbara Luck Graham’s The Supreme Court, Race, and Civil Rights: From Marshall to Rehnquist (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 1995), which examines the apparent retreat on broadly interpreting civil rights laws in 1989, which led to the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Cass R. Sunstein’s One Case at a Time: Judicial Minimalism and the Supreme Court (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999) offers a scathing critique of the Court for deciding civil rights cases too narrowly. Robert H. Birkby’s The Court and Public Policy (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 1983) examines the intersection of the court, laws, and bureaucracy. R. J. Johnston’s Residential Segregation: The State and Constitutional Conflict in American Urban Areas (London: Academic Press, 1984) highlights how intentional and unintentional policies lead to racially defined housing patterns. Harold Hyman and William Wiecek’s Equal Justice Under Law: Constitutional Development, 1835-1875 (New York: Harper & Row, 1982) remains the best overview of Reconstruction era civil rights laws.
Barron v. Baltimore
Bill of Rights
Civil Rights Acts
Civil Rights Cases
Congressional power to enforce amendments
Gitlow v. New York
Harlan, John Marshall
South Carolina v. Katzenbach
War and civil liberties