Civil Rights Cases

(1883)

In the Civil Rights Cases decision of 1883, the U.S. Supreme Court limited the powers of Congress with its finding that the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment did not pertain to actions involving private parties. This case decided five similar discrimination cases that had been grouped together as the Civil Rights Cases when they were heard by the Supreme Court. These cases involved African Americans who had been denied access to whites-only facilities in railroads, hotels, and theaters. All five cases were related to the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which the majority of justices declared unconstitutional in the Civil Rights Cases decision. Nearly ninety years later, Congress would revive that legislation with the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. One of the most frequently examined decisions of the nineteenth century, the Civil Rights Cases decision dealt a dramatic blow to African Americans because it significantly narrowed the legal reach of the...

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Joseph P. Bradley (Library of Congress)

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