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Legislative Origins of Civil Rights Act

In the midst of civil war, Senator Henry Wilson proposed the DC Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862, perhaps the nation’s first civil rights law. As war ended, Congress abolished slavery with the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution and sought to expand civil and political rights with the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. In 1870 Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts introduced the first comprehensive civil rights bill. It became law in 1875, but was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1883. In many ways, Sumner’s bill foreshadowed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.