Civil Rights Act of 1866 at the heart of $10B discrimination suit against Charter Communications

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This week, a federal judge allowed a $10 billion lawsuit against Charter Communications to move forward.

Federal District Court Judge George H. Wu denied Charter's motion to dismiss the suit – filed by Entertainment Studios CEO Byron Allen – which accuses the cable giant of racial discrimination in contracting – a violation of Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. §1981.

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The suit's plaintiffs, Allen and the National Association of African American-Owned Media (NAAAOM), allege that Charter refused to do business with wholly minority-owned companies. Allen, an African-American, is the founder and owner of Entertainment Studios (ESN) which has seven 24-hour cable television networks and is one of the largest independent producers and distributors of content for broadcast television stations.

"We have evidence of racial bias harbored by top level Charter executives with decision-making authority, and allege, in detail, the discriminatory treatment ESN suffered at the hands of these executives," said Skip Miller, attorney for Allen.

Allen's suit against Charter is filed under the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which was created to protect blacks and their businesses from racial discrimination. After the Civil War, newly freed blacks faced harsh business environments and practices known as "black codes." African-American businesses were by imposing herculean legal limitations upon newly freed former slaves, severely limiting their ability to enter and enforce contracts for goods and labor.

In response, Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which officially conferred a series of legal rights equally to all citizens, including the right to contract as an independent business owner.

"The cable industry spends $70 billion a year licensing cable networks and 100 percent African American-owned media receives ZERO," Byron Allen said in a statement. "This is completely unacceptable. We will not stop until we achieve real economic inclusion for 100 percent African American-owned media."

Entertainment Studios and the NAAAOM are also appealing the dismissal of a $20 billion discrimination lawsuit against Comcast.

ESN is the parent company of theGrio.com. It is a 100 percent African-American owned company with seven networks.

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