Petition for the Civil Rights Act of 1875

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Read about the first generation of African-American Members of Congress, serving from 1870 to 1887, and symbolizing the triumph of the Union in the Civil War.

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/tiles/non-collection/r/rr_Petition_Atlanta_1-26-1874.xml Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration
The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees citizens the right to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The Speaker of the House refers a petition to an appropriate committee for further investigation. Petitions become official records of the House when a Member presents the petition on the Floor, and it is noted in the House Journal. This petition written by “a committee appointed at a mass meeting of colored citizens of the city of Atlanta, Ga.” urges the House and Senate to pass the civil rights bill being considered by Congress in 1874. The bill, sponsored by Senator Charles Sumner and Congressman Benjamin Butler of Massachusetts, was eloquently defended on the Floor by Congressman Robert Brown Elliot of South Carolina, one of the earliest African Americans in Congress, as a “great measure of national justice.”