The Limited Effectiveness of the Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1875 in Extending Rights to the Freed Slaves

The Limited Effectiveness of the Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1875 in Extending Rights to the Freed Slaves

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How far do you agree that the Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1875 were effective in extending civil rights to freed slaves?

Both Acts aimed to protect the basic human rights of African-Americans, using federal law in the wake of the American Civil War. However this in itself is a major area of controversy, as the acts did merely aim to grant minimal rights to blacks, immediately suggesting their effectiveness was limited from the outset. Although indeed in contrast to this, it can be argued that the 14th Amendment to the constitution, embodying the Civil Rights Act of 1866, was a ‘step in the right direction’ and no matter how minimal that movement was, it was an essential starting point. The 1866 Act, defined all people born in the USA (except untaxed Indians) as national citizens, and this measure asserted the right of the federal government to intervene in state affairs should any discrepancies arise. This was a major advancement for the black community in terms of official social standing, especially having this act woven into the constitution, signifying a sense of security. However as shall be seen, it was not the idyllic, harmonious start many envisaged, supported by the introduction of the 1875 Act, which was designed to stop segregation.

When considering the long term effectiveness of the Civil Rights Acts’, it was in the legal/political sectors that prevailed, although it is important to remember that in the short term the importance/success was defiantly greater in terms of symbolism and psyche than active reform. This is a very anachronistic viewpoint and of course a contemporaneous view would be very different but as a starting example to support such a view, with Blacks having received basic civil rights it was ...


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..., inefficient, traditional techniques. So despite the introduction of these Civil Rights Acts’, there was little improvement in black living standards.

Overall it can be said that the Civil Rights Acts’ of 1866 and 1875 were extremely limited and in reality it was an ideology that lacked support and more importantly, enforcement. There were areas were they made an immediate impact however their future importance is of more relevance, as they have provided the foundation for future equality. They were drastic and controversial Acts’ especially considering a war had just been fought over the matter and so any effect was inevitably going to be limited. The long term benefits most certainly outweigh the short term effects here and so to this extent one must agree to the view in the question but if merely considering the direct, immediate effects then one must oppose.

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