Black History encapsulates more than a month. This new daily series will take a look at some lesser known events and people in the world.
As the Civil Rights movement dispersed around the nation, Georgia had its fair share of history. Take the Heart of Atlanta Motel Incorporated’s case against the United States. The Supreme Court had recently passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which says racial discrimination in public places was unconstitutional.
But the motel refused to rent rooms to black customers.
Moreton Rolleston, the owner, took the case to court citing the Fifth Amendment (he said it went against his right to choose patrons for his business), the Thirteenth Amendment (involuntary servitude), and he added that Congress was going over their control over the interstate commerce (now known as the Commerce Clause).
Congress immediately came back with their own case. They referenced his Fifth Amendment right saying that it does not hinder regulation of interstate commerce. It countered the Thirteenth Amendment with the explanation that it was specifically for slavery and the negative effects of it. And, finally, Congress said its power under the Commerce Clause related to proper sleeping circumstances for blacks traveling on the interstate.
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia took Congress’s side in December 1964. The court won; Congress could use power granted to it by the Constitution’s Commerce Clause to force privately owned businesses to follow the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The nation successfully fought against discrimination.