Congress attempted to provide a number of rights to members of minority races in the Civil Rights Act of 1875. However, the Supreme Court in the Civil Rights Cases in 1883 significantly curtailed this effort by ruling that Congress did not have the authority to restrict segregation in public accommodations and public conveyances. Only state governments had the power to address racial discrimination by private actors. After the decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, states were able to enact legislation segregating the different races, and Congress was powerless to restrict these laws.
Beginning primarily with the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, the Court established a more expansive view of congressional authority in the area of racial discrimination. Congress enacted a number of statutes between 1957 and 1968 that granted equal rights to all races in education, employment, voting, and many other areas relevant to interstate commerce.