The Civil Rights Act of 1964

The Civil Rights Act had been struggling in legislation under Kennedy's presidency. Ironically, Kennedy’s assassination strengthened the proposed civil rights bill. Prior to his death, any civil rights legislation would have required significant compromise to pass both houses of Congress. After President Kennedy's death, President Johnson refused to compromise.

With an upcoming presidential election, Johnson’s strong endorsement of the Civil Rights Act would normally have been a huge political risk. Yet with key Republicans emerging as allies and other lawmakers less inclined to squabble over a bill an assassinated president supported, the bill passed both houses of Congress with no significant changes.

On July 2, 1964, Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. The law did the following:

  • It prohibited racial discrimination in any public accommodations engaged in interstate commerce.

  • It enforced public school desegregation.

  • It withdrew federal funding from any institution or program that endorsed discrimination.

  • It outlawed all employment discrimination and established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to monitor any violations.

  • It ensured equal voter registration.

In November 1964, Johnson easily won the presidential election.

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