Key Moments in the Fight for Civil Rights

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July, 1964 – The Civil Rights Act

Support for a federal Civil Rights Act was one of the goals of the 1963 March on Washington. President John F. Kennedy had introduced the bill before his assassination. His successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, signed it into law on July 2, 1964. It achieved many of the aims of a Reconstruction-era law, the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which was passed but soon overturned.

The landmark 1964 act barred discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin in public facilities — such as restaurants, theaters or hotels. Discrimination in hiring practices was also outlawed, and the act established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to help enforce the law. Although the law attempted to legislate fair election practices, not all the ways used to deny blacks a vote were covered; the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would be required to address this issue comprehensively.

Much of this text is excerpted, with permission, from the website for the American Experience series Eyes on the Prize. Read more about these events and others on that site.

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