Wednesday, August 29, 2018

So Much Accomplished; So Much Left To Do

While there remains a good deal of work to do with respect to civil rights in the United States, it's a mistake to ignore the progress the country has made on that front over the past 150 years. Beginning with the anti-slavery momentum that mounted before the Civil War, our history has been marked with advances and set-backs in Congress, in local laws, and even in the Supreme Court, but on the whole we’ve seen tremendous improvements.

We have come a long way from days of the Black Codes of 1865 and 1866 when local laws were written to impose draconian restrictions on recently liberated slaves, and essentially reimposed slavery but under different parameters. Gone are the Jim Crow laws that created a separate but equal landscape in the South and a Supreme Court decision in Plessy v Ferguson that ruled that those laws didn't violate the Constitution. Although Plessy v Ferguson has never been explicitly overturned by the Court, the High Court's Brown v Education decision 60 years later held that the separate but equal doctrine was not Constitutional when applied to schools, and that took a lot of the starch out of the separate but equal doctrine.

After years of blatant racism and discrimination after Reconstruction, sometimes implicitly and at other times explicitly supported in laws and by state courts, the United States entered what has been referred to as "The Second Reconstruction Era" that ended with a flurry of civil rights laws passed by Congress between 1957 and 1965, culminating with the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, that effectively shut down the loopholes and exploitation that had occurred since the Civil War.

A study of the acts of Congress over the 100 tumultuous years between the passage of the 13th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, their purposes, and the evolving lines of partisanship in Congressional voting shows the how the heart of the nation matured in a very meaningful way. The change in the Democratic Party over those years is particularly noteworthy. After providing minimal support for the 13th Amendment in 1864, Democrat congressmen and senators failed to contribute a single vote for civil rights legislation for nearly another 100 years until 1957, a stretch that included seven bills that became law without their votes in support of them. That included votes on the 14th and 15th Constitutional Amendments that provided citizenship for American-born African-Americans and provided them the right to vote.

The true sense of the people, however, is apparent in the public support for the ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Constitutional Amendments that required the support of the citizens or their representatives in 3/4 of the States for inclusion in the U. S. Constitution.

Again, there is still much work to do, but we shouldn't allow anyone to convince us that there has not been substantive and extraordinary improvement on the civil rights front in this country. To see it any other way is to ignore the reality of history which has included quite a lot of hardship, sacrifice, and courage.



13th Amendment
Abolished slavery and involuntary servtitude, except as punishment for a crime.

House of Representatives - June 15, 1864
95 yea, 66 nay, 21 not voting (required 2/3 for passage - failed)
Republicans 77 yea, 1 nay, 5 not voting
Democrats 4 yea, 59 nay, 9 not voting
Others 14 yea, 6 nay, 7 not voting

Senate April 8, 1864
38 yea, 6 nay, 5 not voting (required 2/3 for passage - passed)
Republicans 34 yea, 0 nay, 0 not voting
Democrats 3 yea, 6 nay, 3 not voting
Others 1 yea, 0 nay, 2 not voting

House of Representatives January 31, 1865
119 yea, 56 nay, 8 not voting (required 2/3 for passage - passed)
Republicans 84 yea, 0 nay, 0 not voting
Democrats 14 yea, 50 nay, 8 not voting
Others 21 yea, 6 nay, 0 not voting

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Civil Rights Act of 1866
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. (The bill also guaranteed equal benefits and access to the law which was aimed at the Black Codes passed by many post-war states.)

House of Representatives March 13, 1866
111 yea, 38 nay, 34 not voting
Republicans 106 yea, 1 nay, 25 not voting
Democrats 0 yea, 32 nay, 8 not voting
Other 5 yea, 5 nay, 1 not voting

Senate February 2, 1866 (Vote to amend SR61 to deny blacks the right to vote)
7 yea, 39 nay, 4 not voting
Republicans 1 yea, 35 nay, 1 not voting
Democrats 6 yea, 4 nay, 2 not voting
Other 0 yea, 0 nay, 1 not voting

Senate February 2, 1866
33 yea, 12 nay, 5 not voting
Republicans 33 yea, 2 nay, 2 not voting
Democrats 0 yea, 10 nay, 2 not voting
Other 0 yea, 0 nay, 1 not voting

This bill was vetoed by President Andrew Johnson, but his veto was overridden in the House and Senate and became law.

Vote to override President Johnson's veto of SR61

House of Representatives April 9, 1866
122 yea, 41 nay, 21 not voting (required 2/3 for passage - passed)
Republicans 117 yea, 2 nay, 15 not voting
Democrats 0 yea, 33 nay, 6 not voting
Other 5 yea, 6 nay

Senate April 6, 1866
33 yea, 15 nay, 1 not voting (required 2/3 for passage - passed)
Republicans 32 yea, 4 nay, 1 not voting
Democrats 0 yea, 11 nay, 0 not voting
Other 1 yea, 0 nay, 0 not voting

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14th Amendment
Declared that all persons born or naturalized in the United States are citizens of the United States and that no state may deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law or deny any person equal protection of the laws.

House of Representatives June 13, 1866
137 yea, 37 nay, 9 not voting (required 2/3 for passage - passed)
Republicans 127 yea, 0 nay, 6 not voting
Democrats 0 yea, 37 nay, 2 not voting
Other 10 yea, 0 nay, 1 not voting

Senate June 8, 1866
33 yea, 11 nay, 5 not voting (required 2/3 for passage - passed)
Republicans 32 yea, 3 nay, 2 not voting
Democrats 0 yea, 8 nay, 3 not voting
Other 1 yea, 0 nay, 0 not voting

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15th Amendment
Forbade any state to deprive a citizen of his vote because of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

House of Representatives February 25, 1869
141 yea, 44 nay, 35 not voting (required 2/3 for passage - passed)
Republicans 141 yea, 3 nay, 27 not voting
Democrats 0 yea, 39 nay, 7 not voting
Other 2 yea, 2 nay, 1 not voting

Senate February 26, 1869
39 yea, 13 nay, 14 not voting (required 2/3 for passage - passed)
Republicans 39 yea, 4 nay, 13 not voting
Democrats 0 yea, 9 nay, 1 not voting

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Civil Rights Act of 1870 (also known as Enforcement Act of 1870 or First Ku Klux Klan Act)
Prohibited discrimination in voter registration on the basis of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Established penalties for interfering with a person’s right to vote. Gave federal courts the power to enforce the act and to employ the use of federal marshals and the army to uphold it.

House of Representatives May 16, 1870
133 yea, 58 nay, 39 not voting
Republicans 132 yea, 1 nay, 30 not voting
Democrats 0 yea, 54 nay, 8 not voting
Other 1 yea, 3 nay, 1 not voting

Senate May 16, 1870
48 yea, 11 nay, 13 not voting
Republicans 45 yea, 1 nay, 10 not voting
Democrats 0 yea, 10 nay, 1 not voting
Other 3 yea, 0 nay, 2 not voting

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Civil Rights Act of 1871 (also known as Second Ku Klux Klan Act)
Placed all elections in both the North and South under federal control. Allowed for the appointment of election supervisors by federal circuit judges. Authorized U.S. Marshals to employ deputies to maintain order at polling places.

House of Representatives February 15, 1871
144 yea, 64 nay, 32 not voting
Republicans 143 yea, 3 nay, 22 not voting
Democrats 0 yea, 58 nay, 9 not voting
Other 1 yea, 3 nay, 1 not voting

Senate February 25, 1871
39 yea, 10 nay, 24 not voting
Republicans 38 yea, 1 nay, 16 not voting
Democrats 0 yea, 7 nay, 3 not voting
Other 1 yea, 2 nay, 5 not voting

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Civil Rights Act of 1871 (also known as Third Ku Klux Klan Act)
Enforced the 14th Amendment by guaranteeing all citizens of the United States the rights afforded by the Constitution and provided legal protection under the law.

House of Representatives April 19, 1871
93 yea, 74 nay, 63 not voting
Republicans 92 yea, 0 nay, 36 not voting
Democrats 0 yea, 73 nay, 25 not voting
Other 1 yea, 1 nay, 2 not voting

Senate April 19, 1871
36 yea, 13 nay, 20 not voting
Republicans 35 yea, 2 nay, 13 not voting
Democrats 0 yea, 11 nay, 3 not voting
Other 1 yea, 0 nay, 4 not voting

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Civil Rights Act of 1875
Barred discrimination in public accommodations and on public conveyances on land and water. Prohibited exclusion of African Americans from jury duty.

House of Representatives February 4, 1875
162 yea, 100 nay, 27 not voting
Republicans 161 yea, 12 nay, 21 not voting
Democrats 0 yea, 84 nay, 6 not voting
Others 1 yea, 4 nay, 0 not voting

Senate February 27, 1875
38 yea, 26 nay, 9 not voting
Republicans 38 yea, 4 nay, 7 not voting
Democrats 0 yea, 18 nay, 1 not voting
Others 0 yea, 4 nay, 1 not voting

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Civil Rights Act of 1957
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.

House of Representatives February 4, 1875
286 yea, 126 nay, 9 present, 13 not voting
Republicans 167 yea, 19 nay, 5 present, 8 not voting
Democrats 119 yea, 107 nay, 4 present, 5 not voting

Senate August 7, 1957
72 yea, 18 nay, 1 present, 4 not voting
Republicans 43 yea, 0 nay, 1 present, 2 not voting
Democrats 29 yea, 18 nay, 0 present, 2 not voting

Democratic Senator Strom Thurmond filibustered the bill for more than 24 hours in an attempt to kill the bill. The filibuster failed.

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Civil Rights Act of 1960
Expanded the enforcement powers of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and introduced criminal penalties for obstructing the implementation of federal court orders. Extended the Civil Rights Commission for two years. Required that voting and registration records for federal elections be preserved.

House of Representatives April 21, 1960
288 yea, 95 nay, 25 present, 22 not voting
Republicans 123 yea, 12 nay, 12 present, 4 not voting
Democrats 165 yea, 82 nay, 13 present, 18 not voting
Others 0 yea, 1 nay, 0 present, 0 not voting

Senate April 8, 1960
71 yea, 18 nay, 11 not voting
Republicans 29 yea, 0 nay, 6 not voting
Democrats 42 yea, 18 nay, 5 not voting

In a special February 1959 message to Congress on the subject of civil rights, President Eisenhower supported civil rights legislation and proposed seven actions to protect the civil rights of Americans:

  • strengthen the law to confront the use or threats of force regarding school desegregation cases
  • give the FBI more investigative authority in the case of crimes involving the destruction or attempted destruction of schools or churches
  • give the Attorney General power to inspect Federal election records and to preserve those records as necessary for inspection
  • provide a temporary program of financial and technical aid to adjust to school desegregation decisions
  • temporarily authorize a provision for the education of children of members of the Armed Forces when State-administered public schools have been closed because of desegregation decisions or orders
  • consider establishing a statutory Commission on Equal Job Opportunity under Government Contracts
  • extend the life of the Civil Rights Commission for an additional two years
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Civil Rights Act of 1964
Prohibited discrimination in public accommodations, facilities, and schools. Outlawed discrimination in federally funded projects. Created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to monitor employment discrimination in public and private sectors. Provided additional capacities to enforce voting rights. Extended the Civil Rights Commission for four years.

House of Representatives February 10, 1964
290 yea, 130 nay, 5 present, 6 not voting
Republicans 138 yea, 34 nay, 1 present, 4 not voting
Democrats 152 yea, 96 nay, 4 present, 2 not voting

Senate June 19, 1964
73 yea, 21 nay
Republicans 26 yea, 6 nay
Democrats 46 yea, 21 nay

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was supported by President Kennedy, then by President Johnson. When the bill came before the full Senate for debate on March 30, 1964, Senator Richard Russell (D-GA) led a "Southern Bloc," consisting of 18 southern Democratic Senators and one Republican Senator and launched a filibuster to prevent the bill's passage. Russell said, "We will resist to the bitter end any measure or any movement which would have a tendency to bring about social equality and intermingling and amalgamation of the races in our states." The filibuster lasted for 60 days. (Incidently, the Russell Senate Office Building which has been proposed for renaming for John McCain was named for the leader of the filibuster of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Senator Richard Russell.)

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Voting Rights Act of 1965
Suspended the use of literacy tests and voter disqualification devices for five years. Authorized the use of federal examiners to supervise voter registration in states that used tests or in which less than half the voting-eligible residents registered or voted. Directed the U.S. Attorney General to institute proceedings against use of poll taxes. Provided criminal penalties for individuals who violated the act.

House of Representatives August 3, 1965
328 yea, 74 nay, 31 not voting
Republicans 110 yea, 20 nay, 10 not voting
Democrats 218 yea, 54 nay, 21 not voting

Senate August 4, 1965
79 yea, 18 nay, 3 not voting
Republicans 30 yea, 1 nay, 1 not voting
Democrats 49 yea, 16 nay, 2 not voting