Congress passed the Civil Rights Act over the veto of President Andrew Johnson on this date in 1866. The act declared that all persons born in the United States were now citizens, without regard to race, color, or previous condition. As citizens they could make and enforce contracts, sue and be sued, give evidence in
court, and inherit, purchase, lease, sell, and hold property. Persons who denied these rights to former slaves were guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction faced a fine not exceeding $1,000, or imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both. This
legislation, a predecessor to the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s was never taken seriously by the U.S. government.