Document Type


Publication Title

Yale Law Journal

Publication Date



Civil Rights Act of 1866, Congress, Runyon v. McCrary, Patterson v. McClean Credit Union, Racial Discrimination, Right to Contract


The purpose of this Comment is to examine the history of the enactment and early enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 from the perspective of the remedies Congress sought to provide to meet the problems that necessitated the legislation. Its main foci are the statute's enforcement provisions and their early implementation, an aspect of the history of the statute that has not been fully considered in relation to section one, the provision that has received the most scholarly attention. The occasion of this study is the Supreme Court's reconsideration of Runyon v. McCrary' in Patterson v. McLean Credit Union. The specific question the Court will decide is whether the Civil Rights Act of 1866 provides remedies for private acts of racial discrimination which violate the right to contract secured by section one of the statute. Runyon held that it does. The Court will decide whether to restrict the scope of the Civil Rights Act to discriminatory state action. The basis of the Court's reconsideration appears to be a question of legislative intent: whether the framers intended the statute to protect civil rights from discriminatory state action alone, or from private discrimination as well. This Comment concludes that, if the intent of the legislative framers and the interpretation given the statute by the federal judges and legal officers who were charged with enforcing it on its enactment are dispositive, then Runyon was correctly decided.