The Civil Rights Act of 1866 | Facing History & Ourselves

The Civil Rights Act of 1866

This is the full text of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which made freedpeople citizens. 
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At a Glance

reading copy


English — US


  • Civics & Citizenship
  • History
  • Democracy & Civic Engagement
  • Human & Civil Rights

The following is the text of 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

  • * 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.
  • 1Civil Rights Act, 14 Stat. 27–30, April 9, 1866.

How to Cite This Reading

Facing History & Ourselves, "The Civil Rights Act of 1866," last updated March 14, 2016. 

This reading contains quoted text not authored by Facing History & Ourselves. See footnotes for source information.

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