Civil Rights Cases

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Civil Rights Cases
109 U.S. 3
Decided: October 15, 1883

The Civil Rights Cases are five specific cases that were addressed as one by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1883. The five cases all centered upon black citizens suing various businesses—transport, theaters, restaurants—for discrimination under the terms of the 1875 Civil Rights Act which was supposed to outlaw racial discrimination. The cases were brought during Reconstruction by the Republican controlled Congress.[1] The Supreme Court concluded that the Fourteenth Amendment did not give Congress the right to outlaw racial discrimination by private individuals and organizations, and hence the 1875 Act was unconstitutional.

This decision ushered in—as predicted by the one dissenting Justice—a period of segregation in nearly all aspects of life for the nation's blacks, a segregation that only began to crumble after Democratic Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson introduced the Civil Rights Act of 1964 under the Regulation of Commerce umbrella, rather than that of the Fourteenth Amendment.


  1. No, seriously.