Civil rights legislation figured prominently in the agenda of Congress during the Civil War and Reconstruction. But as Reconstruction came to an end and discrimination against African Americans in the South became commonplace, civil rights advocates in Congress increasingly shifted to policies desired by white constituents in the North who had grown tired of efforts to legislate equality. In this book, the first of a two-volume set, Jeffery A. Jenkins and Justin Peck explore the rise and fall of civil rights legislation in Congress from 1861 to 1918.
The authors examine in detail how the Republican Party slowly withdrew its support for a meaningful civil rights agenda, as well as how Democrats and Republicans worked together to keep civil rights off the legislative agenda at various points. In doing so, Jenkins and Peck show how legal institutions can be used both to liberate and protect oppressed minorities and to assert the power of the white majority against those same minority groups.