President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law on this day in history, July 2, 1964 — “the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction,” as the National Archives notes on its website.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 “prohibited discrimination in public spaces, provided for the integration of schools and other public facilities, and made employment discrimination illegal,” according to the Archives.
The passage of the Civil Rights Act was a long time in coming, said the same source.
On June 6, 1963, then-President John F. Kennedy addressed racial equality in a nationally televised speech.
Later, Kennedy requested that Congress move forward with legislation “that would address voting rights, public accommodations, school desegregation, nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs and more.”
That request from Kennedy eventually would become the Civil Rights Act of 1964, although he would not get to see it.
He was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on Nov. 22, 1963.
After Johnson was sworn in as president, he began working on making Kennedy’s dream a reality.
The law faced many obstacles in both houses of Congress, said the National Archives.
In the House of Representatives, opponents of the bill attempted to stymie its process in the Rules Committee.
The House of Representatives passed H.R. 7152 on Feb. 10, 1964, sending the bill to the Senate, said the website of the United States Senate.
In an effort to avoid the same committee delays on the Senate side, Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, D-Montana, bypassed the Senate Judiciary Committee and put the bill on the Senate calendar, according to the Senate’s website.
At the time, the chair of the Judiciary Committee was Sen. James Eastland, D-Mississippi, an opponent of civil rights legislation.
“Mansfield moved to take up the measure on March 9 and it became the Senate’s pending business on March 26, prompting southern senators to launch a filibuster,” the Senate website notes.
The filibuster and other debate on the bill lasted until June 10, 1964, when cloture was invoked. This came after an impressive amount of bipartisanship.
In late May, Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen, R-Illinois, introduced the Dirksen-Mansfield-Kuchel-Humphrey “compromise bill” that both Republican and Democrat members backed.
“Previously an opponent of civil rights legislation, Sen. Dirksen urged Republicans to support the bill as ‘an idea whose time has come,'” said the Library of Congress website.
The actions of Republican and Democratic leadership in the Senate was enough to end the months-long filibuster.
Johnson signed the bill surrounded by notable civil rights leaders.
“The Senate filibuster was overcome through the floor leadership of Sen. Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, the considerable support of President Lyndon Johnson, and the efforts of Sen. Minority Leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois, who convinced enough Republicans to support the bill over Democratic opposition,” said the National Archives.
The Senate finally voted on the bill on June 19, 1964 — and it passed by a vote of 73 to 27.
The new compromise bill was sent to the House of Representatives, where it, too, was passed.
Johnson signed the bill surrounded by notable civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr.
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