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Responding to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Invalidation of Anti-Discrimination Laws, a New Jersey Congressman Unsuccessfully Attempts to Ensure Civil Rights at the Start of the Jim Crow Era
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“Be it enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey, That no person shall be denied the full and equal enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges of all hotels, inns, taverns, restaurants, public conveyances on land or water, theatres and places of public resort or amusement, because of race, creed or color…”

[CIVIL RIGHTS]. JOHN HILL. Broadside. Assembly No 13., State of New Jersey. An Act to Prevent Discrimination against Any Person on Account of his Race, Creed or Color. Large folio sheet, with numbered lines, printed for the use of the legislature. [New Jersey], Introduced January 9, 1883.

Inventory #24742       Price: $1,250

The Civil Rights Act of 1875 forbid discrimination in hotels, trains, and other public spaces. In 1883, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was not authorized by the 13th or 14th Amendments, and therefore was unconstitutional. The Court established the state-action doctrine, allowing Jim Crow segregation and discrimination by private actors.

In an unsuccessful attempt to counter the Court’s decision, Congressman John Hill (1821-1884) of New Jersey placed this act on the table to guarantee equal treatment under the law for all.

Excerpted From Wikipedia:

The Civil Rights Act of 1875 … sometimes called Enforcement Act or Force Act, was a United States federal law enacted during the Reconstruction Era in response to civil rights violations to African American, "to protect all citizens in their civil and legal rights", giving them equal treatment in public accommodations, public transportation, and to prohibit exclusion from jury service.… The drafting of the bill was performed early in 1870 by Senator Charles Sumner, a dominant Radical Republican in the Senate, with the assistance of John Mercer Langston, a prominent African American who established the law department at Howard University….

Grant had wanted an entirely different law to help him suppress election-related violence against blacks and Republicans in the South. Congress did not give him that, but instead wrote a law for equal rights to public accommodations that was passed as a memorial to Grant's bitterest enemy, the late Senator Charles Sumner. Grant never commented on the 1875 law, and did nothing to enforce it says historian John Hope Franklin. Grant's Justice Department ignored it and did not send copies to US attorneys, says Franklin, while many federal judges called it unconstitutional before the Supreme Court shut it down….

The Supreme Court, in an 8–1 decision, declared sections of the act unconstitutional in the Civil Rights Cases on October 15, 1883. Justice John Marshall Harlan provided the lone dissent. The Court held the Equal Protection Clause within the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits discrimination by the state and local government, but it does not give the federal government the power to prohibit discrimination by private individuals and organizations. The Court also held that the Thirteenth Amendment was meant to eliminate "the badge of slavery," but not to prohibit racial discrimination in public accommodations. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 was the last civil rights bill to be signed into law by the federal government until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 during the Civil Rights Movement….

Provisions contained in the Civil Rights Act of 1875 were later readopted by Congress … as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968. The 1964 and 1968 acts relied upon the Commerce Clause contained in Article One of the Constitution of the United States rather than the Equal Protection Clause within the Fourteenth Amendment.


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