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Civil Rights Cases - A Challenge To Civil Rights

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Appellants

United States in four cases, Mr. and Mrs. Richard A. Robinson in one case.

Appellees

Stanley, Michael Ryan, Nichols, Singleton, Memphis & Charleston RR

Appellants' Claim

That their civil rights had been violated under the Civil Rights Act of 1 March 1875 when various individuals and companies had denied them access to accommodations and privileges of an inn, hotel, theater, and railroad on the grounds of race.

Chief Lawyers for Appellants

Samuel F. Phillips, U.S. Solicitor General Phillips; William M. Randolph for the Robinsons

Chief Lawyers for Appellees

(None for first four cases); William Y. C. Humes, David Postern for Memphis & Charleston RR.

Justices for the Court

Joseph P. Bradley (writing for the Court), Samuel Blatchford, Stephen Johnson Field, Horace Gray, Stanley Matthews, Samuel Freeman Miller, Morrison Remick Waite, William Burnham Woods

Justices Dissenting

John Marshall Harlan I

Place

Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

15 October 1883

Decision

Overturned the constitutionality of the 1875 Civil Rights Act.

Significance

The Court ruled 8-1 that Congress did not have the constitutional power, under either the original Constitution, nor under the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, to punish racial discrimination by individuals. With this decision the Court nearly completed the process of nullifying legislation passed during the Reconstruction era designed to grant equal rights to African Americans.

Related Cases

  • Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896).
  • Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964).
  • Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co., 392 U.S. 409 (1968).

Further Readings

  • Blaustein, Albert, and Robert Zangrando. Civil Rights and African Americans. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1968.
  • Johnson, John W. Historic U.S. Court Cases, 1690-1990: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland Publishing, 1992.
  • Logan, Rayford. The Negro in American Life and Thought: The Nadir, 1877-1901. New York: Dial Press, 1954.
Civil Rights Cases [next] [back] Milwaukee Chicago and St. Paul Railway Company v. the State of Minnesota - Significance, States' Rights Versus Commercial Rights, Impact, Related Cases, "our Overworked Supreme Court"

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