History Day - Civil Rights & Human Rights

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Laws & Legislation

Earlier Legislation

Constitutional Amendments

Thirteenth Amendment 

  • P.L. 38-11; 13 Stat. 567; P.L. 38-52 13 Stat. 774–775
  • Abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime.
  • Approved by the 38th Congress (1863–1865) as S.J. Res. 16; ratified by the states on December 6, 1865.

Fourteenth Amendment (1868) 

  • 14 Stat. 358–359
  • the defined citizenship and guaranteed equal protection of the law.
  • Declared that all persons born or naturalized in the U.S. were citizens and that any state that denied or abridged the voting rights of males over the age of 21 would be subject to proportional reductions in its representation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • Approved by the 39th Congress (1865–1867) as H.J. Res. 127; ratified by the states on July 9, 1868.

Fifteenth Amendment (1870)

  • P.L. 40-14; 15 Stat. 346
  • guaranteed the right to vote for all citizens regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” 
  • Forbade any state to deprive a citizen of his vote because of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
  • Approved by the 40th Congress (1867–1869) as S.J. Res. 8; ratified by the states on February 3, 1870.


Most descriptions taken from:

Civil Rights Act of 1866

14 Stat. 27–30

Guaranteed the rights of all citizens to make and enforce contracts and to purchase, sell, or lease property. Passed by the 39th Congress (1865–1867) as S.R. 61.

U.S. House of Representatives: "House overrode President Andrew Johnson’s veto of the Civil Rights Bill of 1866 with near unanimous Republican support, 122 to 41, marking the first time Congress legislated upon civil rights." It gave citizenship to people, except Native Americans, born in the U.S.A.

Civil Rights Act of 1870

First Ku Klux Klan Act

16 Stat. 140–146

Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871

The Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871

16 Stat. 433–440 ; 17 Stat. 13–15

“An Act to enforce the Provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and for other Purposes,” also known as the “Ku Klux Klan Act.”

The Civil Rights Act of 1875

Civil Rights Act of 1875, 18 Stat. 335 (1875)

  • Barred discrimination in public accommodations and on public conveyances on land and water. Prohibited exclusion of African Americans from jury duty.
  • Passed by the 43rd Congress (1873–1875) as H.R. 796.

In 1883 the United States Supreme Court ruled the Civil Rights Act of 1875 unconstitutional.

The Civil Rights Act of 1957

P.L. 85–315; 71 Stat. 634

  • Created the six-member Commission on Civil Rights and established the Civil Rights Division in the U.S. Department of Justice. Authorized the U.S. Attorney General to seek court injunctions against deprivation and obstruction of voting rights by state officials.
  • Passed by the 85th Congress (1957–1959) as H.R. 6127.

Civil Rights Act of 1960

Worked to close loopholes in Civil Rights Act of 1957.

Fair Housing Act

Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Fair Housing Act)

P.L. 90–284; 82 Stat. 73

  • Prohibited discrimination in the sale or rental of approximately 80 percent of the housing in the U.S. Prohibited state governments and Native-American tribal governments from violating the constitutional rights of Native Americans.
  • Passed by the 90th Congress (1967–1969) as H.R. 2516.

Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987

P.L. 100–259; 102 Stat. 28

  • Established that antidiscrimination laws are applicable to an entire organization if any part of the organization receives federal funds.
  • Passed by the 100th Congress (1987–1989) as S. 557.

Civil Rights Act of 1991

P.L. 102–166; 105 Stat. 1071

  • Reversed nine U.S. Supreme Court decisions (rendered between 1986 and 1991) that had raised the bar for workers who alleged job discrimination. Provided for plaintiffs to receive monetary damages in cases of harassment or discrimination based on sex, religion, or disability.
  • Passed by the 102nd Congress (1991–1993) as S. 1745.

Human Rights

Human Rights and Civil rights are not the same - but these topics are combined on the CSL History Day Guide for convenience, as we combine other topics together.

Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act

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