The first case under the Civil Rights Act

April 20, 1866


Officials in Indiana have had their state constitution condemned by a federal judge who states that their constitution violates the rights of freedmen who were determined to be citizens under federal legislation. The Dispatch wants Indiana to continue fighting this ruling and proceed on to the Supreme Court.


It has already been stated that the first case under the civil rights law came up the other day in Indiana, where a colored man, denied the right to enforce a contract by a State law, appealed to the United States Court for protection. The defendant pleaded that under the constitution of Indiana a negro has no right to enforce contracts in the State. The black man pleaded the first section of the civil rights act and the constitutional amendment. The United States District Court (Judge Test) subsequently decided that the amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery makes all the negroes citizens, virtually declaring void the thirteenth article of the Indiana State constitution. In his opinion he says : "Without reference to the civil rights act, I shall sustain the demurrer to the defendant's answer, fully satisfied that the plaintiff is a citizen of the United States- independent of the act of Congress on that subject- with the right to sustain his action for his work and labor." Of course the Judge so decided. A find of one thousand dollars instructed him. We hope the case will be taken to the Circuit Court, and from that to the Supreme Court of the United States. It is a good cause.
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Justin Barlow




“The first case under the Civil Rights Act,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed December 5, 2022,