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What is the history of the Civil Rights Bill of 1866?

The first civil rights bill -- the Civil Rights Bill of 1866 -- became law on April 9, 1966, when the House of Representatives overrode the veto of President Andrew Johnson. According to the language of the bill, "all persons born in the United States" were "declared to be citizens of the United States." It's important to note, however, that the bill did not provide citizenship to indigenous Americans.

The bill stated that all citizens would have "full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property." The Civil Rights Bill of 1866 was a radical measure at the time, and according to the radical Republicans who supported the legislation, it was an appropriate next step following the passage of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery on Dec. 18, 1865. According to New York Representative Henry Raymond, the bill was "one of the most important bills ever presented to this House for its action."

President Johnson, on the other hand, disagreed and initially vetoed the bill. He said that the bill would serve to concentrate and centralize national government's legislative power. Nevertheless, by overturning the president's veto, the radical Republicans eventually achieved their goals and the Civil Rights Bill of 1866 has served as an important law that protects the rights of U.S. citizens ever since.

Do you feel your civil rights were violated? You can fight back by pursuing a legal action in federal court to defend your rights. If successfully navigated and depending on the nature of the lawsuit, such a claim could also bring you financial compensation for the injuries you've suffered as a result of the civil rights violations.

Source: house.gov, "The Civil Rights Bill of 1866," accessed Sep. 15, 2017

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