5. The Civil Rights Cases (1883): Another testament to the Court’s failure to protect civil rights, the Civil Rights Cases struck down the Civil Rights Act of 1875. That law sought to ban racial discrimination in businesses and public accommodations. The court, in an 8-1 decision, held that the enforcement provisions of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments do not allow Congress to prevent non-governmental racial discrimination. It would take over 80 years for the Court to switch course, allowing for the government protection of civil rights in Heart of Atlanta Motel v. U.S — this time under the Commerce Clause.
No further comment necessary, right? Except the full story here on Wikipedia.
Oh, one comment: you see how utterly scummy the Supreme Court can be and has been? Why do we worship them?
I just read parts of the lone dissent from Justice John Marshall Harlan. It is said to be famous. I can see why. Take a look:
Such being the relations these corporations hold to the public, it would seem that the right of a colored person to use an improved public highway, upon the terms accorded to freemen of other races, is as fundamental in the state of freedom, established in this country, as are any of the rights which my brethren concede to be so far fundamental as to be deemed the essence of civil freedom. ‘Personal liberty consists,’ says Blackstone, ‘in the power of locomotion, of changing situation, or removing one’s person to whatever place one’s own inclination may direct, without restraint, unless by due course of law.’ But of what value is this right of locomotion, if it may be clogged by such burdens as congress intended by the act of 1875 to remove? They are burdens which lay at the very foundation of the institution of slavery as it once existed. They are not to be sustained, except upon the assumption that there is still, in this land of universal liberty, a class which may yet be discriminated against, even in respect of rights of a character so essential and so supreme, that, deprived of their enjoyment, in common with others, a freeman is not only branded as one inferior and infected, but, in the competitions of life, is robbed of some of the most necessary means of existence; and all this solely because they belong to a particular race which the nation has liberated. The thirteenth amendment alone obliterated the race line, so far as all rights fundamental in a state of freedom are concerned.