By: Logan Harris
Civil Rights Act of 1866
The act granted citizenship to all persons born in the United States except Native Americans. It allowed African Americans to own property and stated that they were to be treated equally in court. It also gave the federal government the power to sue people who violated those rights. Worried that the Supreme Court might overturn the Civil Rights Act, the Republicans then introduced the Fourteenth Amendment to the constitution. This amendment granted citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States and declared that no state could deprive and person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. It also declared that no state could deny any person equal protection of the laws.
The refugee crisis prompted Congress to establish the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.The bureau was part of the War Department, and General Oliver O. Howard was appointed its commissioner. With the army's support, the bureau played a key role in Reconstruction. It was given the task of feeding and clothing war refugees in the South using surplus army supplies. Beginning in September 1865, the bureau provided nearly 30,000 rations a day for the next year and helped prevent mass starvation in the South. The Bureau also helped formerly enslaved people find work on plantations. It negotiated labor contracts with planters, specifying the amount of pay workers would receive and the number of hours they had to work. It also established special courts to deal with grievances between workers and planters.
With the majority secure and a trusted president in office, Republicans moved to expand their Reconstruction program. Realizing the importance of African American voters, Congress passed the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment declared that the right to vote shall not be denied on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. By March 1870, enough states had ratified the amendment to make it part of the constitution.