April 9: The Civil Rights Act of 1866
In 1866, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act. This law affirmed the citizenship of all people born in the United States (except Native Americans). It granted all citizens “full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property,” language that would be mirrored in the 14th Amendment (passed two years later). Radical Republicans believed it was part of the federal government’s job to help shape an integrated, multiracial society after the Civil War. To them, this legislation was the ideal step to follow the 13th Amendmentof 1865. President Johnson disagreed; he considered the bill another step toward the concentration of all legislative power in the federal government. However, Congress was still able to pass the Civil Rights Act by overriding President Johnson’s veto. The legal and political struggle for civil rights didn’t end there, of course: future amendments and legislation, culminating in the 1960s, were required to further combat racial discrimination in the United States.