Racism in America has long been a source of contention. The impact of slavery and subsequent segregation of the races led to a great deal of discrimination against Black Americans. The purpose of this discussion is to provide a literature review on the subject of discrimination against Blacks and the laws that have been introduced to eliminate such discrimination.
Civil Rights Act of 1866
When most people think of the Civil Rights Act, they think of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; however, the Civil rights Act of 1866 was the foundation for the Civil Rights Act that would become law nearly a century later. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 also laid the groundwork for the fourteenth amendment to the United States constitution.
The Civil Rights Act of 1866 came about in the wake of the civil war won by the Union forces. In an effort to unify the country and lessen discrimination against Blacks the Civil Rights Act of 1866 was proposed. According to Paulson (1997), the congressional Republicans presented an answer to the proposed Civil Rights Act. The republican spoke through the Senate judiciary committee in doing so they first addressed the issue of the status of the former slaves in light of the 1857 Dred Scott case in which the Supreme Court had denied their status as citizens. Section 1 of the Civil Rights Act defined citizenship as applying to anyone who was native born or naturalized. Senator Lyman Trumbull of Illinois clarified during the debate in the Senate that this definition included all native-born blacks, Indians who had left their treaty nation reservations and who paid taxes, and children born of Chinese parents who were resident in the United States. Section 1 declared that citizens "of every race" ought to have the same rights as those "enjoyed by white citizens." What were some of these rights that the authors of the bill believed were fundamental to citizenship? They included the right to make contracts, to sue and to give evidence in court, to own and sell real and personal property, to enjoy the security of person and property, and to be subject to the same punishment or penalty as anyone else convicted of a similar crime (Paulson 1997)."
The second and third sections of the Civil rights Act of 1866 address the legal aspects of protecting equal rights (Paulson 1997). The first aspect of the Act was legal means to protect rights through a presumption of federal judicial supremacy (Paulson 1997). The second section of the Act asserted that anyone who, through law or custom, deprived another person of the rights declared in the law because of race, color, previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude would be guilty of a misdemeanor and, if convicted, subject to a $1,000 fine and/or one year in jail (Paulson 1997).
In addition, the third section of the Act authorized federal courts to have jurisdiction suits and cases brought in state courts upon motion of the defendant (Paulson 1997). The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was important because if gave the federal government and the states the responsibility of protecting the civil rights of all American Citizens (Paulson 1997). In addition, the Act put the Southern states on alert that if they failed to protect the civil rights of citizens, the federal courts would uphold these rights (Paulson 1997). According to Paulson the Civil Rights Act of 1866 was approved by Congress with the endorsement of all but three Republicans. Paulson (1997) asserts that President Johnson, citing states'-rights doctrines and fear of excessive federal power, vetoed the bill. He had earlier vetoed a revised Freedmen's Bureau Act on similar grounds. On 9 April 1866 the congressional Republicans rallied the necessary votes to override the presidential veto; shortly thereafter they overrode the veto of the Freedmen's Bureau Act (Paulson 1997)."
Paulson goes on to state that the presidential vetoes and the overall message sent by President Johnson persuaded republicans that a constitutional amendment would be the only way to ensure the civil rights of White Unionists and Black freedmen living in the South. Furthermore, they thought the amendment was necessary to avoid a future Democratic-controlled Congress from abolishing the Civil Rights Act or other important wartime legislation. The result of these efforts was the fourteenth amendment, which the author describes as complex, disingenuous and using ambiguous language. The amendment asserts, that all persons born or naturalized in the United States were citizens of both the national and state governments. It prohibited the states from abridging their "privileges or immunities," depriving any person of "life, liberty, or property without due process of law," or denying them "equal protection of the laws." The question of the number of Southern representatives in Congress was approached cautiously by the Republicans. Rather than requiring black suffrage in the South, Section 2 provided that if the right to vote was denied "to any of the male inhabitants" of the state (i.e. black freedmen), then its representation in Congress would be reduced proportionally. Section 3 disqualified from public office most former Confederate officeholders but provided a mechanism for congressional pardons. Section 4 invalidated the Confederate war debt, guaranteed the validity of the Union war debt, and barred any compensation for emancipated slaves (Paulson 1997)."
Indeed the Civil rights Act of 1866 was important although it was often ignored. The act was the stepping-stone for the laws suits that followed which pertained to civil Rights. In addition, it spawned the 14th amendment to the constitution, which later challenged the constitutionality of racial segregation in schools and other public facilities, which led to the decision in Brown vs. The Board of Education and the civil rights movement.
Racial zoning laws
Racism in America extended to all facets of society. One of the most prominent issues has been racial zoning laws. Such laws dictated that there were certain areas where Black citizen could not live and encouraged the segregation of Americans along racial lines. The use of racial zoning laws were enforced keep Blacks out of White areas. According to Kennedy, many states restricted residential zoning based on race. The author asserts municipal laws determined residential zoning and were often supported by state laws (Kennedy). The author asserts that the municipal laws reserved sections of a city for the limited habitation of whites (Kennedy). In addition, these laws regulated that all other citizens live in other undesirable areas of the city (Kennedy). The author also provides an excerpt of the Virginia statute, created in 1912, which was as follows:
The map so prepared and certified and corrected shall be prima facie evidence of the boundaries and racial designation of such districts.... Nothing contained herein shall preclude persons of either race employed as servants by person of the other race from residing upon the premises of which said employer is the owner or occupier (Kennedy)."
Eventually such laws were abolished but discriminatory housing practices continued; whether through carefully worded laws or through racial intimidation. Neighborhood remained segregated for many years to come.
The New Deal and federal government discriminatory housing polices
The New Deal was an economic, social and political plan that was brought about by the great depression and created by President Roosevelt. The New Deal reformed the Banking system by making it more secure and led to better regulation of the banking system (Himmelberg 2001). In the creation of this policy there was a first new deal and a second new deal. The first new deal depended on two key programs, the NRA and the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (Himmelberg 2001). These programs were based on the idea that the market economy was futile and was unable of to restore wealth to industry and agriculture (Himmelberg 2001). The author explains that these programs represented, to some extent, experiments with a form of economic planning, the notion that economic stability and prosperity could be achieved by regulating production. By 1935 the NRA had attracted much criticism, and the Supreme Court in any case early in 1935 declared it unconstitutional, making government-regulated planning for industry across the board appear a less viable option than previously. For this reason, but more importantly because of the pressures for new directions that were building up among the people, the emphasis of the Second New Deal would be different from its predecessor (Himmelberg 2001)."
The emphasis of the Second new deal was to encourage direct improvement of the security and income of the unemployed, the elderly, the dependent and blue-collar workers (Himmelberg 2001). The New Deal allowed states to issue and Dole to the unemployed, eventually the amount of money received by the unemployed was increased and more jobs were provided at a reasonable rate (Himmelberg 2001). In addition, the Second New Deal included work relief and support for labor unions. The second New Deal also involved included the Wagner Act, and the social Security Act (Himmelberg 2001).
Discriminatory housing practices after the new deal that were endorsed by the federal government became known as…