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Civil Rights Act of 1866

DEFINITION

Civil Rights Act of 1866: The first civil rights act in American history that applied to race. Act required that every citizen, regardless of race, has the same legal rights as white citizens including the right to buy, sale, inherit, or lease real property.

EXPLANATION

Federal law takes very seriously the equal rights off all people. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was the first civil rights act passed by Congress. It aimed to grant all citizens “full and equal benefit of all the laws and for a person and their property.” (Civil Rights Act of 1866) The bill is considered one of the most important bills ever presented to the House because of its pioneering spirit of granting all citizens equal rights. While the bill did not fully protect African Americans given rampant, but legally unenforceable racial animosity, the bill began the dialogue of accepting and viewing all citizens as equals. Should a party feel his or her rights have been violated, the private individual experiencing such discrimination can file a lawsuit in federal court for alleged discrimination.

Additional civil rights acts were subsequently passed to strengthen and specify the legal outcomes placed on violators. In the context of real estate, the act prevented landowners, landlords, and agents from discriminating on the basis of one’s background.

The act made it illegal for landowners to discriminate against renters or buyers on the basis of race.

Although progressive for its time, there were no federal enforcement provisions in the Act. It also did not protect against other forms of discrimination, such as disabilities or religion. Future housing laws would address these protections.

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