Skip to main content

13th, 14th Amendments Do Not Protect Against Private Acts Of Racial Discrimination


In Hodges v. United States, three men were convicted of conspiring to drive African Americans from their jobs at a lumber mill by intimidation and threats in violation of federal law. When overturning the convictions, the U.S. Supreme Court explains that neither the 14th Amendment nor 15th Amendment gives Congress or any law enforcement officials the power to regulate purely private acts of discrimination. The Court also says that the 13th Amendment has no role in this case. Although the purpose of the 13th Amendment is to abolish forced labor, it does not give the Court the power to criminalize private actions that prevent citizens of African descent from making and carrying out labor agreements. Rather, the Court holds that the conspiracy charge is a state matter and not a federal government concern.