Civil Rights Act of 1866

Monday, April 9, 1866

This mural, displayed at the U.S. Capitol, celebrates the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Image courtesy of the Architect of the Capitol.

A two-thirds majority vote in each house of Congress overrides the veto of President Andrew Johnson to enact the Civil Rights Act of 1866. The new law presages the 14th Amendment to the Constitution by declaring that "all persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States." In practice, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and other Southern resistance limits the effectiveness of the act, and it is widely thought that a Consitutional Amendment will be necessary to ensure that a future Congress does not overturn the law. Furthermore, the law does virtually nothing to extend civil rights to Native Americans or women of any race.

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