Passed on July 2, 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans employers from discriminating based on race, religion, color, national origin or sex, and outlaws segregation in public places and schools. It was a historical achievement of the Civil Rights Movement, and one of the most important laws ever enacted in the United States.
July 2 marks an important historical event in the United States, but it is not a public holiday.
During the Reconstruction Era, the United States government passed laws against discrimination based on raced, namely the abolishment of slavery, making former slaves citizens, and allowing men of any race to vote. However, in many states, such as Southern states, measures were put in place to stop African American citizens from voting and being employed, and strict segregation laws known as "Jim Crow Law" were established.
In 1957 the Justice Department set up a civil rights section and a Commission on Civil Rights, whose purpose was to look into discriminatory conditions. During the spring of 1963, the Civil Rights Movement set up many demonstrations, one of which, in Birmingham, Alabama, ended with police brutality against the black demonstrators. In its aftermath, President JFK was moved into action, and proposed the Civil Rights Act during his Report to the American People on Civil Rights, a television address to the country on June 11, 1963.
Kennedy's proposed legislation aimed at giving all citizens the right to frequent any public facilities, and giving disenfranchised Americans the right to vote. Still, the Civil Rights Movement wanted the Civil Rights Act to offer more protection against police brutality, and an end to employment discrimination. When Kennedy proposed the bill to the House of Representatives, he was met with strong opposition from southern congressmen, who argued that the law was unconstitutional and robbed individuals of their liberties.
John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, and succeeded by President Lyndon B. Johnson. One of Johnson's first stances as a president was to support Kennedy's Civil Rights Act cause. He was also met with hostile opposition from segregation supporters, including a 75-day filibuster in the U.S. Senate.
After the filibuster was broken, and after gaining the needed support of two-thirds of the Senate, a vote was made and the bill won with 73-27 of Senators voting in favor of the Civil Rights Act. President Lyndon B. Johnson then signed and passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
What Was The Civil Rights Act of 1964?
The legislation passed on July 2, 1964, effectively banned segregation not only in schools but also in public places such as hotels, parks, restaurants, theaters, and courthouses, meaning that people could no longer be refused service based on their race, religion or nationality.
The Civil Rights Act also created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which helped enforce the law that banned racial, religious, and gender discrimination by employers.
Eventually, the law was expanded to include disabled citizens, the elderly, and women in collegial sports.
The Civil Rights Act was the precursor for two other very important laws: the Fair Housing Act which barred landlords from discriminating when selling or renting a property, as well as banning discrimination from banks when offering housing financing, and the Voting Rights Act, which put a stop to discriminatory voting practices such as literacy tests.
Martin Luther King Jr. dubbed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as the "second emancipation".