United States: Civil Rights Act of 1964 signed 50 years ago

April 8, 2014

Remember yesteryear

United States: Civil Rights Act of 1964 signed 50 years ago

President Johnson Civil Rights Act of 1964
President Johnson speaks to a nationwide television audience from the White House just before signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Among those in the front row are Lady Bird Johnson, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, Senator Everett Dirksen, Senator Hubert Humphrey, House Minority Leader Charles Halleck, Representative Emanuel Celler, and House Speaker John McCormack. The second row includes FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, civil rights leaders Whitney Young and Martin Luther King, Jr., and labor leader George Meany. (LBJ Library)

The earlier Civil Rights Act of 1957, was the first law addressing the legal rights of African Americans passed by Congress since Reconstruction, had established the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department and the U.S. Civil Rights Commission to investigate claims of racial discrimination. . The new law was badly watered down, however, to meet the criticisms of southern Democrats in the Senate. Before the 1957 bill was passed Congress had, however, removed a provision that would have empowered the Justice Department to enforce the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

On a Monday night, February 10, 1964, the House passed the civil rights bill by a vote of 290 to 130 and sent it to the Senate.

At 9:51 on the morning of June 10, 1964, Senator Robert C. Byrd (Democrat-West Virginia)completed an address that he had begun 14 hours and 13 minutes earlier. The subject was the pending Civil Rights Act of 1964, a measure that occupied the Senate for 60 working days, including seven Saturdays. A day earlier, Democratic Whip Hubert Humphrey, the bill’s manager, concluded he had the 67 votes required at that time to end the debate.

On June 19,1964 the bill passed the Senate by a vote of 73–27, and quickly passed through the House-Senate conference committee, which adopted the Senate version of the bill. The conference bill was passed by both houses of Congress.

The Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2, 1964 at the White House.
LBJ Champions the Civil Rights Act of 1964
By Ted Gittinger and Allen Fisher

Just five days after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, Lyndon B. Johnson went before Congress and spoke to a nation still stunned from the events in Dallas that had shocked the world.

Serving notice on his fellow southern Democrats that they were in for a fight, he said: “We have talked long enough in this country about equal rights. We have talked for one hundred years or more. It is time now to write the next chapter, and to write it in the books of law.”

That chapter became the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

On February 26 the Senate voted to place the bill on the Senate calendar rather than refer it to the Judiciary Committee, which was dominated by southerners. On March 26 the Senate agreed to begin debate on the floor.

Now the southerners began their expected filibuster. In past filibusters on civil rights, the southern senators, under the leadership of Richard Russell, a Georgia Democrat and a Johnson mentor, with superior discipline and organization, had worn down their opponents until they agreed to a compromise. This time things would be different, but the fight would be arduous and the outcome not foreordained.

Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach was the administration’s point man in the coming struggle, and he advised beating the southerners at their own game. The pro–civil rights senators should simply out-organize and outlast the southerners until the necessary votes for cloture had been gathered. Humphrey agreed. Johnson was skeptical at first but allowed himself to be convinced.

Humphrey’s Democratic forces prevented the filibustering southerners from using the parliamentary device of a quorum call, then resting their voices and their feet, while keeping the floor.

But all depended on getting the votes to impose cloture. If Russell and his southerners could delay action on civil rights through the summer and into the convention season, they hoped that their opposition might lose heart and accept compromise as they had in the past.

To get enough votes to impose cloture, Humphrey needed Dirksen’s support, and some compromises were required. On May 13, Humphrey and Dirksen agreed on a key issue—the government would sue only in cases involving a “pattern or practice” of discrimination in public accommodations or fair employment. Not until June 10, however, was Mansfield able to call for a vote on cloture.

The Senate then voted 71-29 to shut off further debate.

On June 19 the Senate passed the civil rights bill, 73-27.

Still, there was the possibility that the House would insist on a conference committee of senators and representatives to iron out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.

After a bipartisan coalition took control of the House Rules Committee from Chairman Smith, the panel reported a resolution accepting the Senate version of the bill, ruling that only a single hour of debate on the bill would be allowed on the House floor.

On July 2, the House voted 289-126 to accept the Senate version of the bill.

On the same day President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the East Room of the White House.

The act elaborated on some voting rights issues in Titles I, VIII and XI, but the true successor to the civil rights measures of 1957 and 1960 was the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In the 1964 legislation, employment discrimination was addressed in Title VII, the only one in the 1964 act to include gender as a protected category, owing to Judge Smith’s miscalculation.

The principal objects of attention and controversy in 1964 were the provisions mandating desegregation of public accommodations and facilities.

Title II contained the prohibition against discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin in public accommodations such as restaurants, lodgings, and entertainment venues if their operation “affect[ed] commerce” or if such discrimination was “supported by State action” such as Jim Crow laws.

Title III permitted the Justice Department, upon receipt of a “meritorious” complaint, to sue to desegregate public facilities, other than schools, owned or operated by state or local governments.

Title IV permitted the attorney general to file suit to desegregate public schools or colleges under certain conditions, but it explicitly did not empower any federal official or court to require transportation of students to achieve racial balance.

The real hammer that broke segregated school systems, however, was Title VI, which barred discrimination in “any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Gary Orfield has written that fund cutoffs accomplished more by the end of the Johnson administration than had a decade of litigation following the Brown v. Board of Education decision, giving the Civil Rights Act “more impact on American education than any of the Federal education laws of the twentieth century.”

Beyond its effect against racial discrimination, the language in this title was the model for subsequent anti-discrimination legislation affecting gender, disabilities, and age. And Hugh Davis Graham has argued that Title VI, not Titles II or VII, which appeared to be the most important at the time, was actually the most significant because of its application in succeeding years to other institutions that had come to rely on federal money.

Finally, the impact of the 1964 act on the American political scene was profound. Bill Moyers, a former aide to LBJ, recalled, in a statement during a 1990 symposium at the Johnson Library:

The night that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, I found him in the bedroom, exceedingly depressed. The headline of the bulldog edition of the Washington Post said, “Johnson Signs Civil Rights Act.” The airwaves were full of discussions about how unprecedented this was and historic, and yet he was depressed. I asked him why.

He said, “I think we’ve just delivered the South to the Republican Party for the rest of my life, and yours.”

Source: The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
Video: Lyndon B Johnson 1964 campaign ad 1964

Video: Lyndon B Johnson 1964 campaign ad 1964-atomic weapons

Video: Lyndon B Johnson 1964 campaign ad 1964- Barry Goldwarter and the western based Republicans party
In 1964 the eastern Republicans were more liberal than the western Republicans who were at the time conservative and the making of the modern Republican party. The Democrats in the South were more conservative during the 1960s before the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act

Video: President Johnson & Mayor Wagner Discuss the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, 1964
In the 1964 Democratic Convention, the major debate was whether to seat the the regular white supremacist Mississippi Democrats or the Mississipi Freedom Democratic Party organized by civil rights activists. In this phone conversation President Johnson and Mayor Wagner discuss how to prevent the seating of the MFDP to prevent a walkout of other southern delegations.

Video: News- LBJ signs Civil Rights Act of 1964

Video: President Lyndon Johnson – Remarks on Signing the Civil Rights Bill

Video: Remarks by Former President Lyndon Johnson at a Civil Rights Symposium, December 12, 1972
This is the last speech given by the Former President before his death on January 22, 1973.
The LBJ Library

Video: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s views on his “I have a dream speech” in relations to war and the economic focus

Video: President Lyndon Johnson – Speech on Voting Rights- March 15, 1965
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is federal legislation in the United States that prohibits discrimination in voting.
On August 6, 1965 President Johnson signed the Act into law.

Video: Lyndon B. Johnson-Remarks on the Signing of the Voting Rights Act -August 6, 1965

Video: Lyndon Johnson – Remarks on decision to not seek reelection


LBJ Library
AUSTIN, TEXAS – The LBJ Presidential Library will host a Civil Rights Summit April 8-10, 2014, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

See more at:


Civil Rights Act of 1964 -50 Years

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