Civil Rights Act of 1964

From Academic Kids

Missing image
President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (CRA '64) in the United States was landmark legislation. The original purpose of the Bill was to protect black men from job (and other) discrimination, but at the last minute in an attempt to kill the bill, it was expanded to include protection for women. As a result it formed a political impetus for feminism.

CRA '64 transformed American society. It prohibited discrimination in public facilities, in government, and in employment. This simple statement understates the large shift in American society that occurred as a result. The Jim Crow laws in the South were abolished, and it was illegal to compel segregation of the races in schools, housing, or hiring. Although initially enforcement powers were weak, they grew over the years, and such later programs as affirmative action were made possible by the Civil Rights Act.


Legislative history

Republican Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen pushed the bill through Congress. The bill divided both political parties and engendered a long-term change in the demographics of both. Johnson realized that supporting this bill would mean losing the South's overwhelming Democratic Party majority (which did happen, with some exceptions). Although they were a minority party in both houses of Congress, Republicans voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Act, enabling its passage. One notable exception was senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, who voted against the bill, remarking "you can't legislate morality". President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill into law on July 2, 1964. Goldwater went on to secure his party's nomination for the presidency, and in the ensuing election, Goldwater won only his home state of Arizona and five of the Deep South states – 4 of which had never voted Republican since the election of 1876. This marked the beginning of the end of the Solid South.

Vote statistics

Vote totals:

  • The Original House Version: 290-130
  • The Senate Version: 73-27
  • The Senate Version, as voted on by the House: 289-126

By Party: The Original House Version:

The Senate Version:

  • Democratic Party: 46-22
  • Republican Party: 27-6

The Senate Version, voted on by the House:

  • Democratic Party: 153-91
  • Republican Party: 136-35

By Party and Region:

The Original House Version:

  • Southern Democrats: 7-87
  • Southern Republicans: 0-10
  • Northern Democrats: 145-9
  • Northern Republicans: 138-24

The Senate Version:

  • Southern Democrats: 1-21
  • Southern Republicans: 0-1
  • Northern Democrats: 46-1
  • Northern Republicans: 27-5

Major Features of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title I

Barred unequal application of voter registration requirements, but did not abolish literacy tests sometimes used to disqualify African Americans and poor white voters.

Title II

Outlawed discrimination in hotels, motels, restaurants, theaters, and all other public accommodations engaged in interstate commerce; exempted private clubs without defining "private," thereby allowing a loophole.

Title III

Encouraged the desegregation of public schools and authorized the U. S. Attorney General to file suits to force desegregation, but did not authorize busing as a means to overcome segregation based on residence.

Title IV

Authorized but did not require withdrawal of federal funds from programs which practiced discriminations.

Title VII

Title VII outlaws discrimination in employment in any business on the basis of race, national origin, sex, or religion. Title VII also prohibits retaliation against employees who oppose such unlawful discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces Title VII. The EEOC investigates, mediates, and sometimes files lawsuits on behalf of employees. Title VII also provides that an individual can bring a private lawsuit. Importantly, an individual must file a complaint of discrimination with the EEOC within 180 days of learning of the discrimination or the individual may lose the right to file a lawsuit. Title VII only applies to employers with fifteen or more employees. In the late 1970s courts began holding that sexual harassment is prohibited under the Act. Title VII has been supplemented with legislation prohibiting pregnancy, age, and disability discrimination. Currently there is no federal law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, however Congress continues to consider the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) which would prohibit sexual orientation employment discrimination.

External links

  • Full text of act (

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