The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, is considered one of the major legislative achievements of the civil rights movement. First proposed by President John F. Kennedy, it survived strong opposition from southern members of Congress and was then signed into law by Kennedy's successor, Lyndon B. Johnson.
Later, Congress expanded the act and passed additional civil rights legislation to disabled Americans, the elderly and women in collegiate athletics. It also paved the way for two major follow-up laws: the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibited literacy tests and other discriminatory voting practices, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which banned discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of property. Though the struggle against racism would continue, legal segregation had been brought to its knees in the United States.
- Look closely at the photo and at the makeup of the Republican senators featured. At this time, there were no U.S. Senators of color. How might this have impacted the discussion leading up to the decision to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
- Using evidence from the description, how did the Civil Rights Act help to guarantee human rights?
- What did the Civil Rights Act of 1964 pave the way for? In what ways are these acts important for everyone in the United States?
Trikosko, Marion, S., "Republican Senators during a meeting on amendments to the Civil Rights Act," 20 May 1964. Courtesy of Library of Congress