Civil Rights Act of 1964


The Civil Rights Act of 1964 brought about a second revolution in America. It brought an end to racial segregation. In June 1963, John F. Kennedy proposed this bill. Many people objected to it at the time. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, and his successor Lyndon B. Johnson worked hard to get the act approved. It was finally passed by the Congress and became a law on 2nd July 1964.

Events Leading to the Act

After the Civil War, various amendments were passed which eliminated slavery, freed the former slave citizens and gave all the men the right to vote regardless of their race. However, numerous states, particularly those in the South, made use of underhand techniques such as poll taxes and literacy tests.

These were done to keep their African American citizens disenfranchised. Southern states also used Jim Crow laws to segregate between blacks and whites.

In 1957 the Congress finally took action and constructed the Justice Department’s Civil Rights branch. The Civil Rights Commission was also established as well. In 1961 Kennedy became the President. He initially hesitated in supporting the anti-discrimination measures. However, after seeing the protests and police brutality, he was forced to take action. In 1963 he introduced the most comprehensive and revolutionary Civil Rights Act.

Passage through the Congress

After the death of Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson took the bill to the Congress. A lot of people, especially the Southern representatives, resisted the act. They claimed that it violated the liberties of individuals and states’ rights. Despite all of this, it was approved by the U.S House of Representatives.

The act was then moved to the Senate where the Southern and Border states caused a 75-day filibuster. However, President Johnson made behind-the-scene deals and secured enough votes to get the bill approved. One of the voters was Senator Clair Engle, who voted his approval by pointing at his eye. The bill was finally passed in the Senate and became a law.

Desegregation and Women Rights

The Civil Rights Act ended segregation in public facilities, education, and accommodation. Any person, regardless of his religion, color, race, and origin, was entitled to equal opportunities. An Amendment was also made in the Title 7 of this act. It was stated that any person, regardless of their color, gender, race, religion, or origin, was entitled to equal employment opportunities. This act was the first step towards ending segregation and starting a long struggle for women’s rights.

Aftermath and Effect

After the ratification of this act, protests erupted in the South. White people refused to accept living together with African Americans. Some even stated that the Congress had no right to end segregation. They supported the pro-segregation candidates and tried to have them elected to the office.

Along with this, some violent incidents took place as well. An example was the Orangeburg massacre. A group of local college students tried to desegregate a bowling alley which resulted in a riot. The School boards refused to accept this law and did not allow African American students entry. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that real change started taking place.