The Civil Rights Act of 1866

April 9, 1866

An Act to protect all Persons in the United States in their Civil Rights, and furnish the Means of their Vindication.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed*, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States; and such citizens, of every race and color, without regard to any previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall have the same right, in every State and Territory in the United States, to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, and give evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property, and to full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property, as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, and penalties, and to none other, any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, to the contrary notwithstanding . . .1

  1. Citations

    • 1 * The phrase “Indians not taxed” appears in several laws and articles of the Constitution. American Indian tribes were considered “sovereign dependent nations” with their own governments. As a result, those who lived on Indian reservations or in unsettled US territories were not subject to state or federal taxes and did not count toward population totals used to determine representation in Congress. Until 1924, Native Americans born on reservations were not automatically citizens.

Related Content

Race in US History

The Fourteenth Amendment

This is the full text of the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” including former slaves recently freed.

Democracy & Civic Engagement

We the People in the United States

Learn how the US Constitution’s promise of equal protection under the law has been questioned throughout US history in debates over issues such as women's right to vote and birthright citizenship.

Race in US History

Congress Debates the Fourteenth Amendment

In this reading the U.S. Congress debates the 14th amendment to the Consititution, which grants citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” including former slaves recently freed.

Race in US History
The Reconstruction Era

Part Three: The Political Struggle, 1865-1866

Scholars discuss the different visions for Reconstruction held by Congress and President Johnson.

Search Our Global Collection

Everything you need to get started teaching your students about racism, antisemitism and prejudice.