On this day in History June 9, 1874, Alabama Republican Congressman James T. Rapier and South Carolina Republican Congressman Alonzo J. Ransier took to the House floor to voice their support for the Civil Rights Act of 1875. The bill guaranteed equal treatment in public places regardless of race or previous condition of servitude.
From a portion of his speech, Congressman Rapier said, “Here I am the peer of the proudest, but on a steamboat or car, I am not equal to the most degraded. No one regrets more than I do the necessity…to come in these Halls with hat in hand to ask of his political peers they same public rights they enjoy. And I feel ashamed for my country…to hear members of the highest legislative body declare they are not bound to respect the civil rights of other members.”
In response to Democrat Congressmen who claimed that blacks were against the bill, Congressman Ransier said, “To say that the intelligent colored people are not desiring this measure is, sir, adding insult to injury. We ask it: we are not in a position to demand it. We plead for it, respectfully, and in no uncertain voice.”
The Civil Rights Act (1875) was introduced to Congress by Charles Sumner and Benjamin Butler in 1870 but did not become law until 1st March, 1875. It promised that all persons, regardless of race, color, or previous condition, was entitled to full and equal employment of accommodation in “inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement.” In 1883 the Supreme Court declared the act as unconstitutional and asserted that Congress did not have the power to regulate the conduct and transactions of individuals.