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Civil Rights Act of 1964

By anubus Mar 06, 2006 3697 Words
Civil Rights Act of 1964

By the summer of 1963, after a series of violent demonstrations in the South, particularly in Birmingham, Alabama, President Kennedy pushed for a very strong civil rights bill through Congress. The first of its kind since the Civil War, this bill drastically called for the end of all segregation in all public places. In the eyes of the civil rights movement leaders, this bill was long over due. Kennedy began by sending the United States Congress a "Special Message on Civil Rights," stating, "Our Constitution is color blind, but the practices of the country do not always conform to the principles of the Constitution. Equality before the law has not always meant equal treatment and opportunity. The harmful, wasteful and wrongful results of racial discrimination and segregation still appear in virtually every aspect of national life, in virtually every part of the nation". Kennedy received praise for his strong and moving words yet was criticized for his weak legislative proposals to remedy the situation. Dr. Martin Luther King began massive protests in the street of Birmingham. To combat these protests, Police Commissioner Bull Conner used any means, including dogs, fire hoses, and electric cattle-prods on the protestors. Making newspapers and television everywhere, the Birmingham atrocity along with Dr. Martin Luther King's famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, ignited the moral conscious of Americans nationwide. While Conner earned a negative reputation, President Kennedy wisely commented, "Bull Connor has done more for civil rights than anyone else. The civil rights movement should thank God for him. He has helped it as much as Abraham Lincoln". The apparent Birmingham defeat for Dr. Martin Luther King in reality was the key point in which the battle to win civil rights became a national fight with the President as one of its strongest allies. Before the Birmingham situation, Kennedy kept a fragile balance with the civil rights activists and the Southern Democrats. While in office, Congress consisted of a great number of Southern Democrats with some liberal Northerners. Kennedy needed the support of these Southern Democrats. To add to this complicated situation, Kennedy knew that while the Southern Democrats would not support civil rights proposals directly, his economic plans, including aid to education and raising the minimum wage, if approved, would benefit the black population. Kennedy also needed the Southern Democrats support in the upcoming 1964 presidential election to secure re-election. Any aggravation to this party would only guarantee a loss for Kennedy. Motivated by the Birmingham situation, by the summer of 1963 Kennedy could no longer appease the Southern Democrats by ignoring the civil rights legislation. Despite the fact that his actions could endanger his chances for re-election, he saw beyond politics and into the moral issues. With public support, Kennedy was willing to wage in the political war. Kennedy and Johnson both were very aware of the walls that Congress would build to stop any proposals in favor of the civil rights movement. Together Kennedy, Johnson, and the civil rights leaders combined efforts to achieve results. By May 31, 1963, Kennedy announced his plans for the civil rights movements to the public. First hand attempts to maintain segregation by the outspoken racist Governor George Wallace of Alabama provided Kennedy with the ideal timing to deliver his message. Before even outlining the details of his new proposal he told the nation, "100 years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free, and this nation, for all it hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizen are free. Next week I shall ask the Congress of the United States to act, to make a commitment it has not fully made in this century to the proposition that race has no place in American life or law". Immediately thereafter, he and Johnson headed meetings to outline the plans. The Leadership Conference of Civil Rights consisting of fifty or so civil rights organizations which had previously been established after Kennedy's initial proposals called for a meeting on July 2nd inviting its participating members but also extended invitation to an additional fifty religious groups and other possible helpful groups. The organization finally felt confident in fighting for this bill with determination to overrun possible roadblocks by mobilizing the nation behind the bill. The Leadership Conference dedicated their goals to achieving a Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC), a provision called Part III, named after the third proposed Eisenhower administration civil rights bill, and eliminating segregation in all accommodations. The FEPC would consist of enforcing employment equality and fairness while the Part III would allow the United States attorney general to file civil rights suits, thereby relieving individuals of filing a suit which could cause dangerous retaliations. Knowing the approval of this proposal would be hard to attain the Leadership Conference strove for all, while accepting that concessions would most likely have to be made. Still attempting to mobilize the public and get the bill some attention, the civil rights activists continued to demonstrate. The "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom," headed by Dr. Martin Luther King, had over 200,000 participants and proved those who feared violence wrong. The protest continued with peace while the crowd repeated, "Pass the Bill". Despite the success of the protest in Washington D.C., the Leadership Conference was having a hard time getting the proposed bill past the House Judiciary Committee. The Bill needed to be tailored to get the future approval of both the Republican and Democratic civil rights supporters, enough to overrule the perceived resistant Senate by 2/3's vote if necessary. Finally after a plea to the House Judiciary Committee by Robert Kennedy, the Attorney General, a bill hoping to please all parties moved to the House of Representatives. However when it appeared that the bill was finally making some headway, the unthinkable happened, President Kennedy was assassinated. Many civil rights leaders feared that Johnson, originally from the South, would not push for the bill as Kennedy had. However, Johnson surprised many when he pushed for the bill as before. In his first address to Congress after Kennedy's death, Johnson stated, "No memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy's memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long". By that February the bill made its way through the House of Representatives with a vote of 290-130. Resembling Kennedy's October 1963 proposal the House of Representatives surprised many by adding an amendment guaranteeing women as well as minorities to the protection of employment opportunity section of the bill. Once in the Senate, however, the bill faced its biggest challenges, including the infamous filibuster, or talking the bill to death. Since the Senate allows for endless debate on bills, making the filibuster a clever tactic, a two-thirds vote is necessary to overrule and end any debate. From March to June the bill was debated in the Senate until finally a vote of 71-29 on June 10, 1964, overruled the filibustering Senators. For the first time in American history, a southern filibuster of a civil rights bill was stopped by a "cloture" (the process of closing a debate in the Senate by calling for a vote). The civil rights supporters were satisfied with the fact that the bill included ending segregation in nearly all public places, cut off United States Government funds to programs that discriminated, and guaranteed equal employment opportunity. In order to avoid a second filibuster, the House of Representatives approved the bill with the Senates amendments making the civil rights bill the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2, as President Johnson signed the bill in one of the largest bill-signing ceremonies ever. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed segregation in businesses such as theaters, restaurants, and hotels. It banned discriminatory practices in employment and ended segregation in public places such as swimming pools, libraries, and public schools. The political fight that occurred in the Senate by determined Southern Democrats will forever remain as one of the greatest legislative showdowns in American history. After passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 however, no longer could segregation be legal or tolerated. In public places the rights of a black person were to be equal to that of a white person. In employment, blacks, minorities, and women could not be discriminated against. The federal government cut off funds to any business, educational institution, state or local government that practiced racial discrimination. To enforce the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the law also stated that the United States Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were to intervene in situations in the South where blacks continued to be denied civil rights. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 not only changed the United States on a social level but politically too. This bill set the precedent for using a cloture to stop a filibuster in the Senate. Similar cloture votes in 1966 and 1968, with bills for equal voting rights and guaranteed equal housing respectively were used to stop Southern filibusters. The Civil Rights Act also proved that mass demonstration and peaceful protesting are heard in Washington D.C. Dr. Martin Luther King and the Leadership Conference started with nothing and achieved everything. From the segregated South those who fought for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 changed the course of American history and ridded the nation of inequality under the law. Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, segregation in the United States was commonly practiced in many of the Southern and Border States. This segregation while supposed to be separate but equal, was hardly that. Blacks in the South were discriminated against repeatedly while laws did nothing to protect their individual rights. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 ridded the nation of this legal segregation and cleared a path towards equality and integration. The passage of this Act, while forever altering the relationship between blacks and whites, remains as one of history's greatest political battles.

Civil Rights Movement Time Line

1890: The state of Mississippi adopts poll taxes and literacy tests to discourage black voters. Over One thousand, two hundred blacks are lynched in the states by lynch mobs.

1895: Booker T. Washington delivers his Atlanta Exposition speech, which accepts segregation of the races.
1896: The Supreme Court rules in Plessey v. Ferguson approving racial segregation in public facilities, and ruling that states could prohibit the use of public facilities by African Americans.

1900: Over one thousand blacks are lynched in the states by lynch mobs.

1905: The Niagara Movement led by W. E. B. Du Bois, John Hope, and William Monroe Trotter, who called for full civil liberties, an end to racial discrimination, and recognition of human brotherhood.

1910: National Urban League is founded to help the conditions of urban African Americans. Over seven hundred and fifty blacks are lynched in the states by lynch mobs.

1920: Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey is convicted of mail fraud. Over five hundred blacks are lynched in the states by lynch mobs.

1928: For the first time in the 20th century an African American is elected to Congress.

1930: Farrad Muhammad establishes in Detroit what will become the Black Muslim Movement. Over hundred and fifty blacks are lynched in the states by lynch mobs.

1933: The NAACP files -and loses- its firs suit against segregation and discrimination in education.

1938: The Supreme Court orders the admission of a black applicant to the University of Missouri Law School

1941: A. Philip Randolph threatens a massive march on Washington unless the Roosevelt administration takes measures to ensure black employment in defense industries; Roosevelt agrees to establish Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC). Over seventy blacks are lynched in the states by lynch mobs.

1942: The congress of Racial Equality (CORE) is organized in Chicago.

1943: Race riots in Detroit and Harlem cause black leaders to ask their followers to be less demanding in asserting their commitment to civil rights; A. Philip Randolph breaks ranks to call for civil disobedience against Jim Crow schools and railroads.

1946: The Supreme Court, in Morgan v. The Commonwealth of Virginia, rules that state laws requiring racial segregation on buses violates the Constitution when applied to interstate passengers.

1947: Jackie Robinson breaks the color line in major league baseball. To Secure These Rights, the report by the President's Committee on Civil Rights is released; the commission, appointed by President Harry S. Truman, recommends government action to secure civil rights for all Americans.

1948: President Harry S. Truman issues an executive order desegregating the armed services.

1950: The NAACP decides to make its legal strategy a full-scale attack on educational segregation. Over thirty blacks are lynched in the states by lynch mobs.

1954: First White Citizens Council meeting is held in Mississippi. School year begins with the integration of 150 formerly segregated school districts in eight states; many other school districts remain segregated.

1955: The Interstate Commerce Commission bans racial segregation in all facilities and vehicles engaged in interstate transportation. Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white person; the action triggers a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

1956: The home of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is bombed. The Montgomery bus boycott ends after the city receives U. S. Supreme Court order to desegregate city buses.

1957: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a number of southern black clergymen create the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

1958: Ten thousand students hold a Youth March for Integrated Schools in Washington, D.C.

1959: Sit-in campaigns by college students desegregate eating facilities in St. Louis, Chicago, and Bloomington, Indiana; the Tennessee Christian Leadership Conference holds brief sit-ins in Nashville department stores.

1960: Twenty-five hundred students and community members in Nashville, Tennessee, stage a march on city hall—the first major demonstration of the civil rights movement—following the bombing of the home of a black lawyer. John F. Kennedy is elected president by a narrow margin. Over forty blacks are lynched in the states by lynch mobs.

1961: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President John F. Kennedy hold a secret meeting at which King learns that the new president will not push hard for new civil rights legislation.

1962: Ku Klux Klan dynamite blasts destroy four black churches in Georgia towns. President Kennedy federalizes the National Guard and sends several hundred federal marshals to Mississippi to guarantee James Meredith's admission to the University of Mississippi Law School over the opposition of Governor Ross Barnett and other whites; two people are killed in a campus riot.

1963: Medgar Evers was killed by an assassin's bullet. The accused killer, a white supremacist named Byron De La Beckwith, stood trial twice in the 1960s, but in both cases the all-white juries could not reach a verdict. Finally, in a third trial in 1994 (and thirty-one years after Evers' murder), Beckwith was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Governor of Alabama, George Wallace stood in front of a schoolhouse door at the University of Alabama in an attempt to stop desegregation of that institution by the enrollment of two black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood. Wallace only stood aside after being confronted by federal marshals. In a nationally televised speech President John F. Kennedy calls segregation morally wrong. President John F. Kennedy is assassinated; Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson assumes the presidency.

1964: President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in most public accommodations, authorizes the federal government to withhold funds from programs practicing discrimination, and creates the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 24th Amendment abolishes the poll tax. Mississippi Civil Rights Workers Murders. Organization of Afro-American Unity founded by Malcolm X, lasted until his death. Congress passed the Economic Opportunity Act which, among other things, provided federal funds for legal representation of Native Americans in both civil and criminal suits. This allowed the ACLU and the American Bar Association to represent Native Americans in cases that later won them additional civil rights. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States the Supreme Court upheld the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

1965: Malcolm X is assassinated while addressing a rally of his followers in New York City; three black men are ultimately convicted of the murder. "Bloody Sunday" on the Selma to Montgomery marches: civil rights workers in Selma, Alabama begin a march to Montgomery but are stopped by a massive police blockade as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Many marchers are severely injured and one killed. Executive Order 11246 signed, requiring Equal Employment Opportunity by federal contractors. President Lyndon Johnson used the phrase "We shall overcome" in a speech before Congress on the voting rights bill. Voting Rights Act of 1965 signed. Rioting in the black ghetto of Watts in Los Angeles leads to 35 deaths, 900 injuries, and over 3,500 arrests.

1966: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., moves to Chicago to begin his first civil rights campaign in a northern city. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., leads an integrated march in Chicago and is wounded when whites throw bottles and bricks at demonstrators. The Black Panther Party (BPP) is founded in Oakland, California. James Meredith is shot by a sniper while on a one man "March against Fear" in Mississippi.

1967: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his first speech devoted entirely to the war in Vietnam, which he calls ‘one of history's most cruel and senseless wars; his position causes estrangement with President Johnson and is criticized by the NAACP. Rioting at all-black Jackson State College in Mississippi leads to one death and two serious injuries. Thur good Marshall is the first black to be nominated to serve on the Supreme Court. Rioting in the black ghetto of Newark, New Jersey, leaves 23 dead and 725 injured; rioting in Detroit leaves 43 dead and 324 injured; President Johnson appoints Governor Otto Kerner of Illinois to head a commission to investigate recent urban riots.

1968: The Kerner Commission issues its report, warning that the nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. travels to Memphis, Tennessee, to help settle a garbage worker strike. Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee, precipitating riots in more than one hundred cities. Congress passes civil rights legislation prohibiting racial discrimination in the sale or rental of housing. Ralph Abernathy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s successor as head of the SCLC, leads Poor People's Campaign in Washington, D.C. What had started out as a protest for the desegregation of Orangeburg's only bowling alley, turned into what became known as the "Orangeburg Massacre." When it was all over, three protestors were killed and 27 had been injured. Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists to symbolize black power and unity after winning the gold and bronze medals, respectively, at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games.

1969: The Supreme Court replaces its 1954 decision calling for "all deliberate speed" in school desegregation by unanimously ordering that all segregation in schools must end "at once." Congress passed the Indian Civil Rights Act, which prohibited state governments from assuming jurisdiction over Native American lands and extended to Indians the same rights that non-Native whites had had since the addition of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution. (ASU) Until 1929 it was known as Normal School for Colored Negroes, then renamed to Alabama State College for Negroes in 1954, then later renamed again in 1969 to Alabama State College. 1971: The Supreme Court, in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, upholds desegregation busing of students to achieve integration. 1973: Start of 71-day standoff at Wounded Knee between federal authorities and members of the American Indian Movement. 1974: In Milliken v. Bradley, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision held that outlying districts could only be forced into a desegregation busing plan if there was a pattern of violation on their part. This decision reinforced the trend of white flight. 1978: Regents of the University of California v. Bakke.

1988: Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988.
1991: One Hispanic, and three white LAPD police officer's are videotaped beating African American Rodney King. 1992: Los Angeles riots erupt after officers accused of beating Rodney King is acquitted. In all 50 to 60 people were killed during the riots. 1995: Million Man March in Washington, D.C., convened by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. The event included efforts to register African Americans to vote in US Elections and increase black involvement in volunteerism and community activism. 1997: Director Spike Lee releases his documentary "Four Little Girls" about the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. 2003: Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger upholds the University of Michigan Law School's admission policy. However, in the simultaneously-heard Gratz v. Bollinger the University was required to change a policy. 2005: The Millions More Movement held a march in Washington D.C. to mark the commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of the historic Million Man March. Rosa Parks dies at the age of 92. She was famous for starting the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955.



Loeby, Robert D., To End All Segregation, University Press of America, Maryland: 1990.

Robinson, A. and Sullivan. New Directions in Civil Rights Studies: Rectors and Visitors of the University Press, 1991.

Chalmers, D., And the Crooked Places Made Straight / The Struggle for Social Change in the 1960s. : The John Hopkins University Press, 1991.

Civil Rights Movement Martin Luther King, Jr. / Civil Rights Act of 1964 / Montgomery Bus Boycott / Nonviolent Resistance / Racism / Racial Segregation / Ralph Abernathy:, free encyclopedia.

Civil Rights Time Line

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