American History / The Civil Rights Act Of 1964

The Civil Rights Act Of 1964

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Autor:  anton  13 December 2010
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I was not born until after Martin Luther King had died. Born in 1968, I didn’t know African Americans were treated as second class citizens. The Civil Rights Movement was ongoing and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was being enforced. Unlike my parents, aunts and grandparents, when I got older I only heard of the Civil Rights Movement and Act of 1964 in school, and did not know that I was reaping the benefits from it until I was old enough to understand. Unlike the generation before me, I didn’t have to deal with laws that did not protect their individual’s rights, resulting in them being discriminated against continuously, such as going to segregated schools and having segregated public places. As a small boy, I didn’t know they were attempting to defy racial discrimination and segregation. Because of the marches, boycotts, protests and federal government enforcement to end racial inequality, we would not have the Civil Rights Act of 1964 today that allows blacks the right to vote, citizenship, education, and able to utilize public facilities.

“Historical momentum for civil rights legislation picked up speed after 1945 as a result of black migration to northern cities and the experiences of black soldier in World War II. Bills introduced in Congress regarding employment policy brought the issue of civil rights to the attention of representatives and senators” (CongressLink, n.d.). Apparently the Fourteenth Amendment didn’t protect black people from their civil rights that were being violated by individuals. This was a start for the civil rights movement, but in order to understand the Civil Rights Act you have to know the definition of civil rights. According to Cornell Law School: Wex “A civil right is an enforceable right or privilege, which if interfered with by another gives rise to an action for injury. Examples of civil rights are freedom of speech, press, assembly, the right to vote, freedom from involuntary servitude, and the right to equality in public spaces” (Cornell Law School, 2005). Because of the history of discrimination, there were many attempts in legislation that led up to the historical landmark of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that is now part of our nation legacy. Civil rights movements can be tracked back to the Reconstruction era. Blacks had wanted to be equal like everyone else for over 100 years. They were suffering from social inequalities. I use to hear my mother talk about the Jim Crow laws down South that was similar to slavery setting. There were many events that led to the civil rights movement beginning in 1954 with Brown v Board of Education, defended by Thurgood Marshall, (who later became a judge on the Supreme Court). The Supreme Court ruled that separate educational facilities for blacks were unequal, but the desegregation didn’t initially, completely stop in the nation because of this ruling. The Brown decision intended for black and white kids not to be forced to attend separate schools. This also brought affirmative action from Congress for most blacks because of the controversy of the ruling. Affirmative action was brought about to overcome the issues of segregation and discrimination in jobs and education. It was eventually reversed and limits were placed on the use of it. In 1955 Rosa Parks got arrested and jailed for sitting in a “white only seat”, resulting in the Supreme Court rule that bus segregation was unconstitutional. In 1957, the Arkansas governor did not want schools to be desegregated and tried to prevent black children from attending, resulting in the children being escorted by National Guardsmen. In the 1960’s there were sit-ins and blacks being beaten by white cops and attackers and freedom riders; blacks couldn’t vote and housing conditions were poor for blacks. The civil rights activists were continuing to rally the public and get the Civil Rights bill some notice, while enduring demonstrations and the march directed by Martin Luther King. “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom,” headed by 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” (Levy 24). All of this led Congress to focus on voting rights and blacks getting support for their civil rights. This civil rights movement ended in 1964 because four black girls were killed at a church. It was visible that blacks and whites still were not treated the same. I could not imagine the social pressures, violence and discrimination my family of origin had to deal with. To believe that our Constitution was that color blind to discrimination and segregation, we can only be thankful for the sacrifices that were made to receive equal treatment. Although the gains of the civil rights movement were immensely important, these gains were primarily in opportunity rather than in results.

In 1960, President Kennedy started looking into making sure minorities had rights in voting, housing, employment and education. Not until the presidential elections were over did he address that he wanted a new Civil Rights Act, he didn’t want to risk his political support. Not until 11 June 1963, did President Kennedy in a television speech address that equal treatment is for everyone regardless of race. He pointed out “The Negro baby born in America today, regardless of the section of the Nation in which he is born, has about one-half as much chance of completing a high school as a white baby born in the same place on the same day, one-third as much chance of completing college, one-third as much chance of becoming a professional man, twice as much chance of becoming unemployed, about one-seventh as much chance of earning $10,000 a year, a life expectancy which is 7 years shorter, and the prospects of earning only half as much” (JFK, 2005). President Kennedy never got to see the Civil Rights bill passed, because in November 1963 he was killed while it was in debate by Congress. Lyndon B. Johnson became the new President and used his power for Congress to pass the bill set forth by President Kennedy. The bill was signed into law on 2 July 1964 and in 1965 the Voting Rights Act was passed. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 went through much opposition in Congress before being passed. In spite of the 83 day filibuster, it passed with the voting statistics as follows: “The Original House Version 290-130, the Senate Version: 73-27, and the Senate Version, as voted on by the House: 289-126” (Wikipedia, 2006). What amazed me was that the Southern Democrats voted against the bill.

Now that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, what did it mean? “The Civil Rights Act of 1964, in the United States was landmark legislation outlawing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Originally conceived to protect the rights of black men, the bill was amended prior to passage to protect the civil rights of all men and women.” (Wikipedia, 2006). Though this Act did not solve problems overnight, it did change the nation politically and socially. It had seven titles that addressed voting, segregated public places being illegal, education, federal funds being taken away if there is proof of discrimination and prevention of discrimination in equal employment. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave blacks success in discrimination, voting and having the right to full citizenship, just as whites. While there is a continued fight to end discrimination and the Act mainly impacted blacks, but it also opened the movements for rights of women, Hispanics and other minorities. The Civil Rights Act has affected me and will affect my future generation in many ways and I know it has come with a cost. You also see now the federal government prohibiting age and disability discrimination and being discriminated against because of family status. The Acts of Civil Rights and Voting is sacred, because many shed blood and sweat to get doors open to schooling, equal employment, home buying, voting and the government continuously standing up for our civil rights and generations to come. In regards to voting, I was listening to the radio and they were speaking about the mid-election this year and how Hurricane Katrina displaced blacks would not be able to vote, the federal government must protect the right to vote of the New Orleans people ensuring they have the opportunity to vote in the upcoming elections. I feel race still is an issue in our society today; you have racial profiling, race riots and bigotry such as white supremacy in our 21st century. Even with the success of integration of blacks and minorities, our society will not be totally free from discrimination, because there will always be personal biases and racial labeling with some race towards another race and this is something our federal government can’t fix, because it is something within. Farai Chideya was speaking on the Nation of Minorities and stated, “But the worst crisis we face today is not our cities or neighborhoods, but in our minds. We have grown up with a fixed idea of what and who America is, and how race relations in this nation work. We live by two assumptions: that “race” is a black and white issue and, that America is a “white” society. Neither has ever been strictly true, and today these ideas are rapidly becoming obsolete (Chideya, 2005). Our federal government implemented an ethical duty by giving society the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Case History: The 1964 Civil Rights Act (n.d.), Congress Link,: The Dirken Congressional Center, retrieved on 27 Feb 2006 from

Civil Rights Act of 1964, 27 Feb 2006, Wikipedia Encyclopedia, retrieved on 2 Mar 2006 from

Civil Rights: An Overview, 30 Nov 2005, Cornell Law School: Legal Information Institute retrieved on 2 Mar 2006 from

Levy, Peter B., The Civil Rights Movement, Greenwood Press, Wesport, Connecticut: 1988

Chiyeda, Farai, A Nation of Minorities: America in 2050. Civil Rights Journal, Vol 4, 1999

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