In the years following the Civil War, a series of extraordinary laws—beginning with the post-war Constitutional Amendments and culminating with the Civil Rights Act of 1875—remade America’s social landscape, abolishing slavery, and conferring equal protection of the law to all Americans. But by 1883, the Supreme Court had ruled the Civil Rights Act unconstitutional and turned a blind eye to the reality of racism, essentially legalizing the brutal prejudice of the Jim Crow era. Three experts discuss this pivotal moment in American history and the tragic fallout of the Court’s failure to protect equal rights.
Lawrence Goldstone is the author of Dark Bargain: Slavery, Profits, and the Struggle for the Constitution and the new book Inherently Unequal: The Betrayal of Equal Rights by the Supreme Court, 1865-1903. Eric Foner is the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University and the author of The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery. Khalil Gibran Muhammad is the incoming Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and Assistant Professor of History at Indiana University—Bloomington.