Ku Klux Klan Act Law and Legal Definition

Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 is a federal law enacted as a response to extraordinary civil unrest during the reconstruction period that threatened the lives and the political and economic rights of all newly freed slaves.

Section 1 of the act provided that any person deprived of rights conferred by the Constitution by someone acting under color of law or custom could bring suit in federal court and recover damages or equitable relief. Section 2 of the act provided criminal sanctions and a civil damages action for the offences of attempting to overthrow the government, intimidating witnesses or parties to legal action, using threat or force to influence jurors, or going on the highway in disguise to deprive others of the exercise of constitutional rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. The act authorized the president to use the U.S. armed forces to put down rebellions and suspense the writ of habeas corpus. It also provided that the jurors in the U.S. courts must not be parties to combinations or conspiracies and that they must swear, on penalty of perjury, that they did not have any allegiances to groups dedicated to the overthrow of the government or denial of constitutional rights.