It’s hard to appreciate this week’s Supreme Court decision on affirmative action without knowing about a case from the 19th century.
The Civil Rights Cases. In 1883, just a few years after Union troops stopped occupying the states of the former Confederacy, the Supreme Court ruled on five cases it combined into the Civil Rights Cases (Wikipedia, text of decision). Eight justices ruled unconstitutional the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which banned racial discrimination in “accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement”. The Court said that Congress had overstepped its power, because the 13th and 14th Amendments only gave it “corrective” power to reverse state laws that denied blacks their civil rights. Congress…
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