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Monroe v. Pape

A Turbulent Time

In the years immediately following the Civil War, the southern United States suffered great social and political upheaval. Many white citizens resented the political power wielded by newly freed slaves, and took action to curb their participation in the electoral process through terror and other means. As attacks against African Americans continued into the 1870s, many of which were conducted with the approval and even the participation of local law enforcement authorities, President Ulysses S. Grant asked for congressional action to address the problem.

The Ku Klux Klan Act was passed in 1871 in response to Grant's appeal. When added to the U.S. Code as R.S. 1979, it provided in Section 1 that

every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

This language allowed individuals whose rights had been violated by authorities to seek redress in civil court, in addition to their constitutional protection from the use of evidence obtained through unreasonable searches and seizures. The act also provided jurisdiction for the federal judiciary in cases involving abridgment of an individual's constitutional rights being tried in state courts.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1954 to 1962Monroe v. Pape - Significance, A Turbulent Time, An Energetic Mistake, Equal Protection And The States, Impact