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This Day in History

January 1, This Day in History – May 16th



On May 16th, 1866, the U.S. Congress passed the first Civil Rights Act, which granted citizenship and equal rights under the law to all persons born in the United States, regardless of race or previous condition of servitude.

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was a major milestone in the struggle for racial equality in the United States, and paved the way for later legislation such as the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the U.S. and prohibited states from denying them equal protection under the law.

The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 was not without controversy, however. President Andrew Johnson, who had succeeded Abraham Lincoln after his assassination, vetoed the bill, arguing that it was unconstitutional and would lead to an influx of new voters who would support the Radical Republican agenda. However, Congress overrode the veto, making the Civil Rights Act the first major piece of legislation in U.S. history to become law over a presidential veto.

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