Civil Rights Act of 1866

 

Andrew Johnson

Summary and Definition of Civil Rights Act of 1866
Definition and Summary: The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was passed on April 9, 1866 under the full title of "An Act to protect all Persons in the United States in their Civil Rights, and furnish the Means of their Vindication". The Civil Rights Act of 1866 detailed the rights of all U.S. citizens, including the right to buy and sell property, engage in business, make contracts, sue and give evidence in court. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was an important step in the struggle for equality.

Civil Rights Act of 1866 for kids
Andrew Johnson was the 17th American President who served in office from April 15, 1865 to March 4, 1869. One of the important events during his presidency was the Civil Rights Act of 1866 during the Reconstruction Era following the Civil War.

When were the other Civil Rights Acts?
The law passed in 1866 was the first of several pieces of legislation called the Civil Rights Act. Additional Civil Rights Acts were passed in 1871 (Enforcement Acts), the Civil Rights Act of 1875, Civil Rights Act of 1957, 1964 and 1991. In addition between the years from 1964 to 1968 Congress enacted extensive legislation affording African Americans equal status under the law. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 part of the of Congress to take control of the Reconstruction of the union and ensure that slavery was eradicated in the United States after the Civil War.

What was the Purpose of the Civil Rights Act of 1866?
The purpose of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 was to protect ex-slaves (Freedmen) from legislation in the Southern States such as the
Black Codes and the Vagrancy Laws. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 also gave further rights to the freed slaves. The purpose of the Civil Rights Act of 1866

Freedmen's Bureau

Civil Rights Act of 1866: What were the Black Codes?
The
Black Codes were laws that were introduced in the Southern States restricting black people's freedom and many Civil Rights preventing ex-slaves (Freedmen) to vote or serve on juries, requiring permission to travel, enforcing harsh labor laws, placing orphans placed into forced apprenticeships and unequal laws and harsh punishments.

What were the Provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1866?
The Provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 detailed the rights of U.S. citizens including the:

  • The right to full and equal benefit of all laws, the right to make contracts, the right to sue, the right to give evidence in court, the right to purchase and sell property, the right to lease, inherit and pass on inheritance

The Provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 also stipulated the enforcement of the act stating that:

  • "Anyone who deprives a person of his or her civil rights as defined by the act is deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment"

  •  In addition "...anyone who attempts to prevent the arrest of someone who has violated the actís terms is also punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment..."

The act further stipulated that the President can direct the resources of the government to enforce these provisions and punish those who violate them.

The Provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 Text
The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was legislation that addressed the rights and equality of ex-slaves. An important part of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 stated that:

"...all citizens would have the same right ďto full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property,
as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, and penalties, and to none other, any law..."

Click the following link to access the  full Text of the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

Why did President Johnson veto the Civil Rights Act of 1866?
The President Johnson vetoed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 on 27 March 1866 stating that blacks were not qualified for United States citizenship and that the bill would "operate in favor of the colored and against the white race." The Republicans in Congress were outraged and overrode the presidential veto on April 9, 1866.

How did the Civil Rights Act of 1866 become law?
The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was passed by Congress in a two-thirds majority over President Andrew Johnsonís veto as a response to the Black Codes enacted by many of the Southern states. It was signed by Schuyler Colfax, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Lafayette S. Foster, President of the Senate, pro tempore. The enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 was the first time a Important piece of legislation was passed into law without presidential approval. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 overturned the Supreme Courtís 1857 Dred Scott decision in which the Supreme Court ruled that African Americans, whether enslaved or free, were not citizens of the United States.

 

Presidential Seal

 

When was the Civil Rights Act of 1866 Passed?
The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was a law passed by the Republican dominated Congress on April 9, 1866.

What was the relationship between the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Fourteenth Amendment?
The controversy of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the extension of the Freedmen's Bureau was raging between the President and Congress.
Congress passed the Civil Rights Bill to protect the ex-slaves. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 provided that cases concerning the civil rights of the freedmen should be heard in the United States courts instead of in the state courts. President Johnson vehemently objected to this believing that Congress did not possess the power to take this action and vetoed the bill. Congress overrode his veto and then drew up the 14th Amendment. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution forbade the states to abridge (reduce) the rights of the citizens, white or black. The 14th Amendment further provided that the representation of any state in Congress should be diminished whenever it denied the right of the amendment to any one, except for taking part in rebellion. Finally it guaranteed the debt of the United States, and declared all debts incurred in support of rebellion null and void. Every Southern state, except Tennessee, refused to accept this amendment.

Civil Rights Act of 1866 Effects
The Effects of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 were obviously to benefit the ex-slaves in the South, but it also:

  • Increased the animosity between the President an the Republicans in Congress

  • Encouraged the belief that Reconstruction was a congressional, not an executive, function.

  • Enraged the Southern States

  • Led to increased violent acts of Vigilantism and increased the membership of secret organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan.

Civil Rights Act of 1866 Significance
The Civil Rights Act of 1866
marked a milestone in the African American struggle for equality, and heralded further legislation during the Reconstruction Era. However Racial Segregation continued to be enforced by the Jim Crow Laws.

Civil Rights Act of 1866 for kids - Racial Discrimination and Segregation
For additional facts about racial discrimination and segregation refer to detailed information on Black Segregation History and for brief, fast facts refer to the Segregation History Timeline.

Black History for kids: Important People and Events
For visitors interested in African American History refer to Black History - People and Events. A useful resource  for teachers, kids, schools and colleges undertaking projects for the Black History Month.

Civil Rights Act of 1866 for kids - President Andrew Johnson Video
The article on the Civil Rights Act of 1866 provides an overview of one of the Important issues of his presidential term in office. The following Andrew Johnson video will give you additional important facts and dates about the political events experienced by the 17th American President whose presidency spanned from April 15, 1865 to March 4, 1869.

 

 

 

Civil Rights Act of 1866
 
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