America in Ferment: The Tumultuous 1960s
|The Civil Rights Act of 1964||Previous||Next|
|Digital History ID 3329|
For seven months, debate raged in the halls of Congress. In a futile effort to delay the Civil Rights Bill's passage, opponents proposed over 500 amendments and staged a protracted filibuster in the Senate. On July 2, 1964--a little over a year after President Kennedy had sent it to Congress--the Civil Rights Act was enacted into law. It had been skillfully pushed through Congress by President Lyndon Johnson, who took office after Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963. The act prohibited discrimination in voting, employment, and public facilities such as hotels and restaurants, and it established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to prevent discrimination in employment on the basis of race, religion, or sex. Ironically, the provision barring sex discrimination had been added by opponents of the Civil Rights Act in an attempt to kill the bill.
Although most white Southerners accepted the new federal law without resistance, many violent incidents occurred as angry whites vented their rage in shootings and beatings. The Civil Rights Act was a success despite such incidents. In the first weeks under the 1964 Civil Rights Law, segregated restaurants and hotels across the South opened their doors to black patrons. Over the next ten years, the Justice Department brought legal suits against more than 500 school districts and more than 400 suits against hotels, restaurants, taverns, gas stations, and truck stops charged with racial discrimination.