In an early grade I learned about the 1964 civil rights bill.  I thought it was the first bill of its kind.  I was wrong.  In a higher grade I found out the first civil rights legislation was enacted after the Civil War, but it was vetoed by the president then Congress overturned the veto.  I was taught this was a good example of “checks and balances” because one branch prevented the other from delaying social progress.

But there was a third branch of government.

In 1875 another civil rights act was passed.  This time the president and Congress were in agreement, but the US Supreme Court declared this civil rights act unconstitutional.

I was confused.  How could civil rights violate the constitution?

The Supreme Court said discrimination was prohibited by state and local governments, but the federal government does not have the power to prohibit discrimination by private individuals and organizations.

But the 1964 civil rights bill outlawed specific forms of discrimination practiced by the private sector and there was no challenge to the constitutionality of the bill.

I was still confused.  What made civil rights constitutional 89 years later?

Then I discovered two concepts.

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