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Abstract

Racial discrimination in the United States has been effectively attacked in both the legislatures and the courts for over a hundred years. Enslavement of blacks in the American South prompted adoption of the thirteenth amendment and the Reconstruction Civil Rights Acts enacted pursuant to the amendment’s enabling clause. These laws sought primarily to elevate the status of the black freedman by granting him rights equal to those enjoyed by white citizens. The most far-reaching of these statutes is 42 U.S.C. § 1981, derived from the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which insures to all persons the same right to make and enforce contracts. This Comment shall attempt to evaluate section 1981’s proper place in the enforcement of civil rights by examining whether section 1981 was intended to benefit whites as well as blacks, the propriety of asserting a section 1981 claim without first seeking recourse under Title VII, and the effect of section 1981 actions by white plaintiffs upon the power of the district courts to impose “affirmative action” decrees.

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