Student's Guide to Landmark Congressional Laws on Civil Rights

Student's Guide to Landmark Congressional Laws on Civil Rights

Student's Guide to Landmark Congressional Laws on Civil Rights

Student's Guide to Landmark Congressional Laws on Civil Rights


This reference guide details the most critical civil rights laws in U. S. history, moving from the period of slavery, to the Civil War, to the Reconstruction, to the civil rights era of the mid- to late-20th century. An overview essay introduces each period, and 36 individual laws are examined in essays placing the bills in their historical contexts. Each law is then presented in an edited and, when appropriate, annotated form, so students can read and understand the actual words of the law.


This book describes thirty-six separate laws that have been integral in the effort to secure civil rights and civil liberties for African Americans. The list is not exhaustive; nonetheless, each law covered is a “landmark” in that it has had a significant impact on this endeavor.

The entries in this book are discussed in chronological order and are subdivided into three primary eras. The slavery period began with the arrival of black indentured servants in 1619 and culminated in the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. The period of postwar reconstruction occurred from the end of the Civil War until the turn of the century. The civil rights era spanned the entire twentieth century and peaked with the adoption of the nation's three most sweeping civil rights laws in the 1960s. A historical timeline has been included at the outset to indicate how the laws coincide with other significant events.

The chapters begin with a synopsis of the law under consideration, followed by a brief discussion of the historical context within which each arose. This context includes the impetus for the law, the issues at hand, the political battles fought to attain passage, major judicial interpretations of the law, and the law's subsequent impact. Finally, the specifics of the law itself are oudined and described, and select excerpts are provided, including brief definitions of the more difficult legal terms.

The book benefited greatly from information contained in several classic historical accounts as well as other excellent legal compilations. In particular, these secondary sources included John . . .

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