Civil Rights Act of 1866


The Civil Rights Act of 1866, the U.S. Congress’s first civil rights measure, established the citizenship of blacks and conferred equality before the law with respect to the protection of the fundamental rights of person and property. Passed on March 13 and designed to enforce the Thirteenth Amendment's abolition of slavery, which was undermined by the passage of the Black Codes, the Civil Rights Act of 1866 overturned the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) that blacks were excluded from citizenship.

Section 1 of the act provided that all persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, were citizens of the United States. It declared that U.S. citizens “of every race and color … shall have the same right, in every State and Territory in the United States, to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, and give evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal...

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The Civil Rights Act of 1866 (Library of Congress)

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