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Template:USStat, April 9, 1866 A.D.
Civil Rights Act of 1866
39th United States Congress
File:US Congressional Seal.svg
Long title: CHAP XXXI. — An Act to protect all Persons in the United States in their Civil Rights, and furnish the Means of their vindication.
Authored by:
Introduced by:
Date passed: House: April 9, 1866
Senate: April 6, 1866.
Date signed into law: 1866
Related legislation:

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 is a federal law in the United States that made everyone born in the U.S[1] full citizens. It was aimed at the Freedmen (freed slaves) and was a major policy during Reconstruction. It was vetoed by President Andrew Johnson[2], then passed over his veto by Radical Republicans in Congress.[3]

The act continues in effect in the 21st century as Template:USC, paragraph (a).

It provides that:

"All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions of every kind, and to no other."


The far-reaching consequence of this act is that since 1866 it has been illegal in the U.S. to discriminate in jobs and housing on the basis of race. However, federal penalties were not provided for, so that remedies were left to the individuals involved. Because those being discriminated against had limited access to legal help, this left many victims of discrimination without recourse. Since the latter half of the 20th century, there have been an increasing number of remedies provided under this act, including the landmark Jones v. Mayer decision in 1968.[4]

Section 1981 (the original Civil Rights Act of 1866) was the first major anti-discrimination employment statute. This act prohibited employment discrimination based on race and color. This Act has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to protect all ethnic groups.

See also[]

  • American Civil Rights Movement


  1. It does not cover visitors, diplomats, and Native Americans in the United States on reservations.
  2. see veto message
  3. Belz 2000)
  4. Player (2004).

Further reading[]

  • Belz, Herman. A New Birth of Freedom: The Republican Party and Freedom Rights, 1861 to 1866 (2000)
  • Foner, Eric. Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877 (1988)
  • Hyman, Harold M. A More Perfect Union (1975)
  • Player, Mack A. Federal Law of Employment Discrimination in a Nutshell (2004)
  • Tsesis, Alexander. The Thirteenth Amendment and American Freedom: A Legal History (2004)

External links[]

sv:Civil Rights Act (1866)