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Civil Rights - Subsequent Legislation

public act court discrimination

Although these initial laws purported to guarantee the civil rights of all citizens, including African Americans and other minorities,

In 1956 the Dallas Transit Company removed all segregated seating signs from its buses to comply with the Supreme Court ruling banning racial segregation on public transportation.

they were effectively negated for most African-Americans in the late nineteenth century by the passage of JIM CROW LAWS, or BLACK CODES, in the South. These laws made it illegal for African-Americans to use the same public facilities as whites, restricted their travel, impeded their ability to vote, forbade interracial marriage, and generally relegated them to a legally inferior position.

In the 1896 landmark case PLESSY V. FERGUSON, 163 U.S. 537, 16 S. Ct. 1138, 41 L. Ed. 256, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a Jim Crow law that required the SEGREGATION, or separation, of the races on railroad cars. The Court held that the Louisiana law in question was not a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as long as the facilities that were provided for each race were "separate but equal." This SEPARATE-BUT-EQUAL doctrine was used to support other segregation laws applying to public schools and public facilities.

No significant civil rights legislation was enacted until many decades later, when the COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS was established by Congress in the Civil Rights Act of 1957 (42 U.S.C.A. § 1975) to monitor and collect facts regarding race relations for consideration by Congress and the president. Congress subsequently passed the Civil Rights Act of 1960 (42 U.S.C.A. § 1971). The statute guarantees that qualified voters have the right to register to vote in any state and that they have the right to sue any person who prevents them from doing so. Voters possess this right to sue regardless of whether the individual who so prevents them is a state official or merely an individual who acting as one.

The CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964 (42 U.S.C.A. §§ 2000a et seq.) is the most comprehensive civil rights legislation in the history of the United States. It contains provisions for parity in the use and enjoyment of public accommodations, facilities, and education, as well as federally assisted programs and employment. Title VII of that act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on an employee's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, is regarded as the most inclusive source of employment rights. All employers who have at least 15 employees, including state and local governments and LABOR UNIONS, are subject to its provisions, but it does not apply to the federal government, American Indian tribes, clubs, or religious organizations.

The Civil Rights Act of 1968 (25 U.S.C.A. § 1301 et seq.) proscribes discrimination in the sale and rental of most U.S. housing. It also prohibits discrimination in financing arrangements and extends to agents, brokers, and owners. Both the 1964 and 1968 Civil Rights Acts establish the right of an injured party to sue and to obtain damages from any individual who illegally infringes with a person's civil rights, conspires to deprive others of their civil rights, or abuses either government authority or public office to accomplish such unlawful acts.

In the area of education, a significant civil rights milestone was achieved in 1954 with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION, 347 U.S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686, 98 L. Ed. 873. In Brown, the justices unanimously rejected the separate-but-equal doctrine that it had upheld in Plessy. They found that segregating black and white children in different public schools violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Segregation, the Court held, effectively discriminates against African-American children by promoting in them a sense of inferiority that limits their opportunities in life. The Court also required that school districts desegregate "with all deliberate speed." INTEGRATION, or desegregation, of public schools has been a divisive issue ever since. In particular, arguments arise over the practice of busing students a distance to school, a method that has been used, often by court order, to create a better racial balance.

The issue of segregation continues to cause strife. In 2002, Senate Majority Leader TRENT LOTT (R.-Miss.) suggested during comments at the 100th birthday party of retired Senator STROM THURMOND that he was proud that the state of Mississippi had supported Thurmond in a presidential bid in 1948. Thurmond had run on the so-called "Dixiecrat" platform that advocated segregation. The comments caused a storm of criticism directed at Lott, and he resigned as senate majority leader in December 2002.

In employment, COMMON LAW permits an employer or LABOR UNION to discriminate for a valid reason in its relations with employees, unless otherwise provided by federal or state statute. The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (29 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq.) initially restrained discrimination against employees or job applicants who engage in union activities. Subsequently, the act has been extended through various amendments to prohibit other forms of discrimination, including race and SEX DISCRIMINATION. In 1963, Congress enacted the Equal Pay Act (29 U.S.C.A. § 206), which requires that men and women be paid the same wages when they do substantially similar work. The federal EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION (EEOC) is the initial forum for claims of illegal employment discrimination. It also publishes advisory guidelines that explain or define the law. Many states have agencies or HUMAN RIGHTS commissions that are similar to the EEOC.

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