Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States

Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States
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Argued October 5, 1964
Decided December 14, 1964
Full case nameHeart of Atlanta Motel, Incorporated v. United States, et al.
Citations379 241 (more)
85 S. Ct. 348; 13 L. Ed. 2d 258; 1964 U.S. LEXIS 2187; 1 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) ¶ 9712
Prior historyJudgment for defendant, 231 393 (N.D. Ga. 1964). Appeal from the United States Court of the Northern District of Georgia
Subsequent historyNone
Congress did not unconstitutionally exceed its powers under the Commerce Clause by enacting Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibited racial discrimination in public accommodations. Northern District of Georgia affirmed.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Earl Warren
Associate Justices
Hugo Black · William O. Douglas
Tom C. Clark · John M. Harlan II
William J. Brennan Jr. · Potter Stewart
Byron White · Arthur Goldberg
Case opinions
MajorityClark, joined by Warren, Douglas, Harlan, Brennan, Stewart, White, Goldberg
Laws applied
U.S. Const. art. I
Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964),[1] was a landmark United States Supreme Court case holding that the Commerce Clause gave the U.S. Congress power to force private businesses to abide by Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in public accommodations.


This important case represented an immediate challenge to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the landmark piece of civil rights legislation which represented the first comprehensive act by Congress on civil rights and race relations since the Civil Rights Act of 1875. For much of the 100 years preceding 1964, race relations in the United States had been dominated by segregation, a system of racial separation which, while in name provided for "separate but equal" treatment of both white and black Americans, in truth perpetuated inferior accommodation, services, and treatment for black Americans.

During the mid-20th century, partly as a result of cases such as Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45 (1932); Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649 (1944); Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1 (1948); Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629 (1950); McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, 339 U.S. 637 (1950); NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449 (1958); Boynton v. Virginia, 364 U.S. 454 (1960); and, most notably, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), public opinion began to turn against segregation. Despite the outcomes of these cases, segregation remained in full effect into the 1960s in parts of the southern United States, where the Heart of Atlanta Motel was located.

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