Civil Rights ActsLaw
Legal Definition of Civil Rights Acts
a series of acts passed between 1866 and 1875, the provisions of some of which are codified in several sections of title 42 of the U.S. Code. The earlier legislation granted blacks the rights to sue and be sued, to give evidence, and to own property. Federal authorities were authorized to enforce penalties upon anyone interfering with registration, voting, holding of office, or jury service of blacks. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 prohibited racial discrimination by innkeepers, public transportation, and owners of public establishments, but it was struck down by the Supreme Court in United States v. Stanley, 109 U.S. 3 (1883). Because of that decision, which held that the Fourteenth Amendment protected against discrimination by a government but not by an individual, Congress did not enact civil rights legislation until the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1964.