Civil Rights Act of 1964

  • Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964
Civil Rights Act of 1964

The Civil Rights Act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 2, 1964, prohibited discrimination in public places, provided for the integration of schools and other public facilities, and made employment discrimination illegal. This document was the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction.

In a nationally televised address on June 6, 1963, President John F. Kennedy urged the nation to take action toward guaranteeing equal treatment of every American regardless of race. Soon after, Kennedy proposed that Congress consider civil rights legislation that would address voting rights, public accommodations, school desegregation, nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs, and more.

Despite Kennedy’s assassination in November of 1963, his proposal culminated in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson just a few hours after House approval. The act outlawed segregation in businesses such as theaters, restaurants, and hotels. It banned discriminatory practices in employment and ended segregation in public places such as swimming pools, libraries, and public schools.

Passage of the act was not easy. House opposition bottled up the bill in the House Rules Committee. In the Senate, opponents attempted to talk the bill to death in a filibuster. In early 1964, House supporters overcame the Rules Committee obstacle by threatening to send the bill to the floor without committee approval. The Senate filibuster was overcome through the floor leadership of Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, the considerable support of President Lyndon Johnson, and the efforts of Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois, who convinced Republicans to support the bill.

One of the pens President Johnson used to sign this historic piece of legislation, along with pens used to sign 49 other pivotal acts of legislation between 1961 and 1965, which were given to Lawrence F. O’Brien, is on display in the “Making Their Mark” exhibit in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery.

The images shown here are scans of the first and signature pages of this act. Download a high-resolution version of the entire act from the National Archives’ Online Public Access Database.

 

Past Featured Records
  • Bicentennial of the Burning of Washington and the Battle of Baltimore
    Bicentennial of the Burning of Washington and the Battle of Baltimore

    The summer of 1814 saw military actions in Washington, DC, and Baltimore, Maryland, with dramatically different outcomes. The British capture of the nation’s capital and the destruction of public buildings stand as one of the lowest points in U.S. history.  The American victory at Baltimore,... Read more

  • Senate Revisions to House Proposed Amendments to the U.S. Constitution
    Senate Revisions to House Proposed Amendments to the U.S. Constitution

    On June 8, 1789, Representative James Madison of Virginia introduced a series of proposed amendments to the newly ratified U.S. Constitution. Though initially against the idea of an enumerated list of individual rights, fearing that they would be redundant and possibly limit... Read more

  • Richard Nixon’s Resignation Letter and Gerald Ford’s Pardon
    Richard Nixon’s Resignation Letter and Gerald Ford’s Pardon

    During the night of June 17, 1972, five burglars broke into the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate office complex in Washington, DC. Investigation into the break-in exposed a trail of abuses that led to the highest levels of the Nixon administration and... Read more

  • Tonkin Gulf Resolution
    Tonkin Gulf Resolution

    By 1964, Vietnam had been torn by international and civil war for decades. U.S. military support for South Vietnam had grown to some 15,000 military advisers, while the North received military and financial aid from China and the Soviet Union.

    In a late-night televised address on August... Read more

  • G.I. Bill of Rights
    G.I. Bill of Rights

    Originally established to provide services and benefits to the veterans of World War II, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, also known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, was signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on June 22, 1944, after it had passed the House... Read more