Prohibition: The 18th Amendment (1920) – Want a cold beer to cool off from the summer heat? The 18th Amendment made drinking that beer a crime, mandating a nationwide prohibition on alcohol in 1920. Bootlegging became a major illegal industry in the U.S. and gave rise to gangsters and organized crime. Congress repealed the law with the ratification of the 21st Amendment in 1933.
Slavery: The Act in Relation to Service (1852) – Slavery may seem morally wrong to most people today, but 1852 was a different story. Slavery was legalized in the Utah Territory by the Act in Relation to Service. However, after one year of bloodshed in the Civil War, Congress passed legislation abolishing slavery in all U.S. territories. After President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, Congress passed the 13th Amendment in 1865. The amendment officially repealed the Act in Relation to Service by outlawing slavery and involuntary servitude.
Speed Limits: National Maximum Speed Law (1974) – High oil prices and supply disruptions during the 1973 oil crisis pushed Congress to pass the National Maximum Speed Law (NMSL), which prohibited speed limits higher than 55 miles per hour throughout the United States. Congress repealed the NMSL in the 1995 National Highway Designation Act, returning speed limit setting authority to the states. Since then, 34 states have raised speed limits to 70 mph or higher on some portion of their roadway systems.
Jim Crow laws: The Civil Rights Act (1964) – Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 where an estimated 250,000 people rallied for human rights. One year later, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawing major forms of discrimination against African-Americans and women, including racial segregation. The law repealed the black codes and Jim Crow laws which denied blacks rights including the right to vote and the right to testify against whites in court.
Immigration: The Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) – The California Gold Rush sparked an anti-Chinese sentiment among white miners and prospecters with racial tensions increasing as more and more Chinese moved west and created competition for jobs. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 allowing the U.S. to suspend Chinese immigration. The law was intended to last 10 years, but wasn't repealed until 61 years later when China allied itself with the United States in World War II, in the 1943 Magnuson Act.
Free Speech: The Sedition Act (1918) – During World War I, the public largely criticized the U.S. government's involvement abroad. In response, Congress passed the Sedition Act of 1918 which forbade any expression of opinion that cast the government or the war effort in a negative light. Eugune V. Debs, a Socialist who ran for U.S. president five times, was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison under the Sedition Act after delivering an anti-war speech. Debs' sentence was commuted after Congress repealed the law in 1921.
Cash: The Anti-Gold Futures Act (1864) – The first recorded instance of federal government regulation of derivatives was the Anti-Gold Futures Act of 1864, where Congress prohibited the trading of gold futures. The act was passed by Congress because of the low value of cash money in trading in comparison to gold at the time. Congress believed the decline in value was a result of a failure of the private market, but after the act was signed, the value of greenbacks continued to fall. Two weeks later Congress repealed the act.