What you might not know about the 1964 Civil Rights Act

Alicia W. Stewart and Tricia Escobedo, CNNPublished 1:53 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014

CNN —  

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 – hailed by some as the most important legislation in American history – was signed into law 50 years ago Wednesday.

It was known as the “bill of the century.” But many Americans today probably couldn’t say exactly what the legislation accomplished.

“It’s really the law that created modern America,” said Todd S. Purdum, author of “An Idea Whose Time Has Come.” “Its goal was to help finish the work of the Civil War, 100 years after the war had ended, and to make the promise of legal equality for blacks and whites, even though actual equality is elusive to this day.”

The law revolutionized a country where blacks and whites could not eat together in public restaurants under Jim Crow laws, or stay at the same hotel. It outlawed discrimination in public places and facilities and banned discrimination based on race, gender, religion or national origin by employers and government agencies. It also encouraged the desegregation of public schools.

“This did all of those things. It changed everything about ordinary life for black Americans all over the country,” Purdum said. “I think when you try to explain to people today – I have children 10 and 14 years old, and I don’t think they can really imagine a world like (this) existed before this law.”

The act had the longest filibuster in U.S. Senate history, and after a bloody, long civil rights struggle, the Senate passed the act 73-27 in July 1964. It became law less than a year after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Read the full act here

Here are a few surprising facts about how the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law:

1. More Republicans voted in favor of the Civil Rights Act than Democrats

In the 1960s, Congress was divided on civil rights issues – but not necessarily along party lines.GALLERYRELATED GALLERYThe civil rights movement in photos

“Most people don’t realize that today at all – in proportional terms, a far higher percentage of Republicans voted for this bill than did Democrats, because of the way the Southerners were divided,” said Purdum.

The division was geographic. The Guardian’s Harry J. Enten broke down the vote, showing that more than 80% of Republicans in both houses voted in favor of the bill, compared with more than 60% of Democrats. When you account for geography, according to Enten’s article, 90% of lawmakers from states that were in the Union during the Civil War supported the bill compared with less than 10% of lawmakers from states that were in the Confederacy.

Enten points out that Democrats still played a key role in getting the law passed.

“It was also Democrats who helped usher the bill through the House, Senate, and ultimately a Democratic president who signed it into law,” Enten writes.

2. A fiscal conservative became an unsung hero in helping the Act pass

Ohio’s Republican Rep. William McCulloch had a conservative track record – he opposed foreign and federal education aid and supported gun rights and school prayer. His district (the same one now represented by House Speaker John Boehner) had a small African-American population. So he had little to gain politically by supporting the Civil Rights Act.GALLERYRELATED GALLERYPhotos: Leonard Freed’s March on Washington

Yet he became a critical leader in getting the bill passed.

His ancestors opposed slavery even before the Civil War, and he’d made a deal with Kennedy to see the bill through to passage.

“The Constitution doesn’t say that whites alone shall have our most basic rights, but that we all shall have them,” McCulloch would say to fellow legislators.

Later, he would play a key role in the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 1968 Fair Housing Act and become part of the Kerner Commission, appointed by the Johnson administration to investigate the 1967 race riots.

Kennedy’s widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, wrote him an “emotional” letter when he retired from Congress in 1972.

“You made a personal commitment to President Kennedy in October 1963, against all interests of your district,” she wrote. “There were so many opportunities to sabotage the bill, without appearing to do so, but you never took them. On the contrary, you brought everyone else along with you.”

3. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. met for the first and only time during Senate debate on the act

The two leaders met briefly on March 26, 1964, while they were both on Capitol Hill to hear debate on the 1964 Civil Rights Act. That brief encounter was captured by photographers.

“Well, Malcolm, good to see you,” King greeted Malcolm X.

“Good to see you,” he replied.

Known for his direct rhetoric in denouncing America’s treatment of African-Americans, Malcolm X was a stark contrast to King, who preached tolerance and peace in achieving equal rights.

Some scholars say the two could have formed an alliance, as Malcolm X moved away from the Nation of Islam. But it never happened: Malcolm X was shot and killed less than a year after their first and only encounter. King was assassinated in 1968.

4. The act didn’t help just black Americans

Women, religious minorities, Latinos and whites also benefited from the Civil Rights Act, which would later serve as a model for other anti-discrimination measures passed by Congress, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Under the Civil Rights Act, women who had been fired because they became pregnant, or were not hired because they had small children, now had recourse. As a result of Title VII, “male only” job notices became illegal for the first time.

Before the Civil Rights Act, women made up less than 3% of attorneys and less than 1% of federal judges; now they make up nearly a third of lawyers, according to the National Jurist, and three of the nine Supreme Court Justices are women.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was also created by the law, giving women a workable “hammer” with which to shatter the glass ceiling.

5. A segregationist congressman’s attempt to kill the bill backfired

Virginia’s Democratic Rep. Howard W. Smith was a staunch segregationist and strongly opposed the Civil Rights Act.

Smith, who was chairman of the House Rules Committee, came up with many tactics to discourage the passage of the bill’s Title VII, which would outlaw employment discrimination because of race, color, religion or national origin.

When Smith added the word “sex,” the House reportedly laughed out loud. The ploy was Smith’s attempt to quash support among the chamber’s male chauvinists on the grounds that the bill would protect women’s rights in the workplace, according to Clay Risen in his book “The Bill of the Century.”

Despite resistance, and complex motives, the act eventually passed, laying the groundwork for legal battles to ensure equal employment opportunities for women.

And whether he intended to or not, Smith ended up helping to set the stage for modern feminism.

6. The 1964 law didn’t do much to address discrimination at the ballot box

Black men were granted the right to vote in 1870 under the 15th Amendment (women followed 50 years later). Yet many obstacles – including literacy tests and poll taxes – prevented most blacks in the South from casting ballots.

Just a few months before the Voting Rights Act, the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified to remove poll taxes as a condition for voting in federal elections. All the 1964 Civil Rights Act did was to mandate the same voting rules nationwide.

It wasn’t until the following year that the 1965 Voting Rights Act would suspend the use of literacy tests.


~ CNN.com

February 1839: The Amistad abducted 53 slaves on june 28 1839 ~ on july1 ,35 Slaves organized a mutiny On Nov26,1841 three yrs later& only 23 slaves made it back – a repost

by Jenny Ashcraft  
In February 1839, slave hunters abducted a group of Africans from Sierra Leone and shipped them to Havana, Cuba to be sold as slaves. Their kidnappings violated all treaties then in existence. When they arrived in Cuba, two Spanish plantation owners, Pedro Montes and Jose Ruiz, purchased 53 slaves to work their Caribbean plantation. They loaded the slaves aboard the Cuban schooner Amistad. On July 1, while sailing through the Caribbean, the captured slaves organized a mutiny. One of the slaves, Sengbe Pieh (also known as Joseph Cinque), freed himself and loosed others. They killed the captain and the ship’s cook, seized the ship, and ordered Montes and Ruiz to sail to Africa.

Under the guise of heading towards Africa, Montes and Ruiz sailed the ship north instead. The Amistad zigzagged up the east coast for nearly two months.

On August 26, 1839, it dropped anchor off the tip of Long Island and a few of the men went ashore for fresh water. Soon, the US Navy brig Washington sailed into view. Thomas R. Gedney, commanding officer of the Washington, assumed those on board were pirates. He ordered his men to disarm the Africans and capture everyone including those who had gone ashore for water. They were all transported to Connecticut where officials freed the Spaniards but charged the Africans with murder upon the high seas.

Amistad Memorial
New Haven, Connecticut 
The murder charges were eventually dismissed, but the Africans remained imprisoned and their case sent to Federal District Court in Connecticut. The plantation owners, the government of Spain, and Gedney all claimed some sort of compensation. The plantation owners wanted their slaves back, the Spanish government wanted the slaves returned to Cuba where they would likely be put to death, and Thomas Gedney felt he was entitled to compensation under maritime law that allowed salvage rights when saving a ship or its cargo from impending loss.

The district court ruled that the case fell within Federal jurisdiction. The ruling was appealed, and the case sent to the Supreme Court. Former president John Quincy Adams argued on behalf of the Africans. He said they were innocent because international laws found the slave trade was illegal. Thus, anyone who escaped should be considered free under American law.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Africans and ordered their immediate release. Abolitionists who had supported their cause raised funds to return them to Africa.

On November 26, 1841, nearly three years after their abduction, the Africans departed New York City bound for home. Only 35 of them made it back. The others died at sea or while in custody.

The original 19th-century manuscripts from the Amistad case and our entire Black History collection are available to search for free this month on Fold3!

Civil Rights Act of 1964 Facts ~ taught in some schools

Civil Rights Act of 1964 Facts


The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a far-ranging law that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.

The Act essentially outlawed racial and gender discrimination in the workplace and outlawed most forms of racial segregation.

The bill was originally the idea of President John F. Kennedy, who was viewed by many in the Civil Rights movement as apathetic at best to their plight. Kennedy said he was influenced by sights of civil rights marchers being beaten by the police in Alabama, so he put forward the legislation in June 1963. The bill probably had the votes to pass, but was stopped in committee by Representative Howard Smith of Virginia, who was a segregationist.

After Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, the Congress and the general public were much more sympathetic to the bill.

The bill was passed 289-126 in the House of Representatives and a modified compromise version by the Senate 73-27 on June 19, 1964.

President Johnson signed the bill into law on July 2, 1964.

Interesting Civil Rights Act of 1964 Facts:
  • Opposition to the bill was more along geographic than political lines with a majority of both southern Democrats and Republicans voting “nay.”
  • Representative Emanuel Cellar (D-NY) was one of the bill’s early advocates. He was also instrumental in passing the Immigration Act of 1965.
  • Southern Democrats filibustered for fifty-four days to prevent the passage of the bill before a compromise bill was introduced that lessened the power of the government to regulate private business.
  • Civil rights organizations, such as the NAACP, and leaders, like Martin Luther King Jr., lobbied congressmen and both presidents to pass the bill.
  • Title VII of the Act expressly prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), oversees enforcement of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • Among the more interesting of the congressmen who were opposed to the bill were Senators Robert Byrd (D-WV), who became a mentor to the next generation of Democrat politicians, and Albert Gore Sr. (D-TN), who was the father of former vice president and senator, Al Gore.
  • The legality of the Act has been upheld in several Supreme Court decisions, including:

Heart of Atlanta Hotel v. United States, Philips v. Martin Marietta Corp., and Pittsburgh Press Co. v. Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations.

  • Title IX of the Act made it easier for criminal cases involving civil rights violations to be tried in federal court. This was extremely important as many Klansmen who were acquitted in state courts for crimes ranging from assault and arson to murder were usually convicted for civil rights violations, although the convictions usually carried far less time.
  • The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 paved the way for the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which barred racial discrimination in housing.
Although some aspects of voting problems were addressed in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, most of the barriers to black disenfranchisement in the southern states were dealt with in the Voting Rights Act of 1965.



If you see any errors please feel free to comment… so many opinions on who actually came up with the idea of the Bill

jim crow… did you know?

Jim Crow Era

After the Civil War, there was a period from about 1865 to 1877 where federal laws offered observable protection of civil rights for former slaves and free blacks; it wasn’t entirely awful to be an African American, even in the South. However, starting in the 1870s, as the Southern economy continued its decline, Democrats took over power in Southern legislatures and used intimidation tactics to suppress black voters. Tactics included violence against blacks and those tactics continued well into the 1900s. Lynchings were a common form of terrorism practiced against blacks to intimidate them. It is important to remember that the Democrats and Republicans of the late 1800s were very different parties from their current iterations. Republicans in the time of the Civil War and directly after were literally the party of Lincoln and anathema to the South. As white, Southern Democrats took over legislatures in the former Confederate states, they began passing more restrictive voter registration and electoral laws, as well as passing legislation to segregate blacks and whites.

It wasn’t enough just to separate out blacks – segregation was never about “separate but equal.” While the Supreme Court naively speculated in Plessy v. Ferguson that somehow mankind wouldn’t show its worst nature and that segregation could occur without one side being significantly disadvantaged despite all evidence to the contrary, we can look back in hindsight and see that the Court was either foolishly optimistic or suffering from the same racism that gripped the other arms of the government at the time. In practice, the services and facilities for blacks were consistently inferior, underfunded, and more inconvenient as compared to those offered to whites – or the services and facilities did not exist at all for blacks. And while segregation was literal law in the South, it was also practiced in the northern United States via housing patterns enforced by private covenants, bank lending practices, and job discrimination, including discriminatory labor union practices.

This kind of de facto segregation has lasted well into our own time.

The era of Jim Crow laws saw a dramatic reduction in the number of blacks registered to vote within the South. This time period brought about the Great Migration of blacks to northern and western cities like New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan experienced a resurgence and spread all over the country, finding a significant popularity that has lingered to this day in the Midwest. It was claimed at the height of the second incarnation of the KKK that its membership exceeded 4 million people nationwide. The Klan didn’t shy away from using burning crosses and other intimidation tools to strike fear into their opponents, who included not just blacks, but also Catholics, Jews, and anyone who wasn’t a white Protestant.

This time period was not without its triumphs for blacks, even if they came at a cost or if they were smaller than one would have preferred. The NAACP was founded in 1909, in response to the continued practice of lynching and race riots in Springfield, Ill. From the 1920s through the 1930s in Harlem, New York, a cultural, social, and artistic movement took place that was later coined the Harlem Renaissance. Musicians like Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton, writers such as Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes, it-girls like Josephine Baker, and philosophers like W.E.B. Du Bois all had a hand in the Harlem Renaissance and American culture as a whole is richer and better for it. 

Notable Supreme Court Cases:

  • The Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. 36 (1873) – this series of three cases, which were consolidated into one issue, offered the first opinion from the Supreme Court on the 14th Amendment. The court chose to interpret the rights protected by the 14th Amendment as very narrow and this precedent would be followed for many years to come.
  • Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3 (1883) – in this set of five cases that were consolidated into one issue, a majority of the court held the Civil Rights Act of 1875 unconstitutional against the lone famous dissent of Justice Harlan. The majority argued that Congress lacked authority to regulate private affairs under the 14th Amendment and that the 13th Amendment “merely abolishe[d] slavery”. Segregation in public accommodations would not be declared illegal after these cases until the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896) – this is the case which gave us the phrase “separate but equal” and upheld state racial segregation laws for public facilities. Justice Harlan again offered a lone dissent. These laws would remain in play until 1954.

Selected Library Resources:

Additional Resources: