U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Peter Kirsanow and Howard Law School Dean Danielle Holley-Walker discussed the reconstruction era and the background of the landmark Civil Rights Cases of 1883.
Civil Rights Cases (1883) were a series of five cases that were consolidated and decided on as a whole. Despite the post-Civil War Reconstruction Period, the Court in an 8-1 decision held that the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was not constitutional under the Thirteenth and Fourteenth amendments. This set the tone for the legality of the Jim Crow era of segregation for African Americans. This lesson explores the background of the Civil Rights Cases of 1883, the Constitutional questions relating to them and the impact of the ruling.
As a class, view the following video and answer the questions below to lay the foundation for students to understand this case:
Explain rights and treatment of African-Americans during the Reconstruction Era.
Students can either work independently or in groups to view the following video clips. They should take notes using the handout below:
Handout: Supreme Court Case: Civil Rights Cases (1883) (Google Doc)
What does the 13th Amendment do? Why is Section 2 important?
What are included in the different parts of the 14th Amendment?
VIDEO CLIP: The Civil Rights Act of 1875 and the Civil Rights Cases of 1883 (5:23)
How did Frederick Douglass and Senator Charles Sumner work together to pass legislation to ensure full citizenship for African-Americans?
Explain what the Civil Rights Act of 1875 did.
How were the five Civil Rights Cases of 1883 similar? Why were they consolidated?
VIDEO CLIP: The Majority Opinion in the Civil Rights Cases of 1883 (4:46)
What was the decision in the Civil Rights Cases of 1883?
What is meant by the State Action Doctrine? * How do you think this is different than actions by private entities (i.e. individuals and businesses)?
What does Ms. Danielle Holley-Walker mean by this decision being "activist?"
VIDEO CLIP: The Importance of the Dissenting Opinion in the Civil Rights Cases of 1883 (4:08)
Why was Justice John Harlan's dissent important to civil rights leaders following Reconstruction?
What arguments did Justice John Harlan make in his dissent?
VIDEO CLIP: The Impact of the 1883 Civil Rights Cases on African-Americans (2:32)
Explain how black Americans were affected by the ruling in the Civil Rights Cases of 1883.
VIDEO CLIP: The Civil Rights Cases of 1883 and the Commerce Clause (2:24)
How was the Civil Rights Act of 1875 similar to the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
What parts of the Constitution were used to justify the Civil Rights Act of 1964? How was this different than Civil Rights Cases of 1883?
VIDEO CLIP: The Legacy of the Civil Rights Cases of 1883 (2:21)
As a class, discuss the significance of this case, the precedent it set, and its legacy.
Comparing Supreme Court Cases- Compare and contrast the Constitutional arguments that are made in the Civil Rights Cases (1883) to those in the following Supreme Court cases:
Additional Writing Prompts-
Should the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause be applied to discrimination by non-state actors like private businesses and individuals? Support your argument with information from the Constitution and the Civil Rights Cases of 1883.
How does the Commerce Clause of the Constitution provide Congress the power to pass anti-discrimination legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
This lesson is a collection of video clips highlighting some of the key people, legislation, organizations and events that emerged during this era and made a lasting impact on the country.