The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a piece of civil rights legislation that outlawed discrimination in schools and public facilities. More than that, this landmark legislation was one of the most important moments in America’s complicated history. The Act was passed by the 88th congress and banned discrimination on race, religion, sex, color, or national origin. The passing of the bill was one of the most important dates in civil rights history and a key factor in the civil rights movement. Many people may know of this legislation, but here are a few facts that you might not know.
- President Kennedy, who proudly supported the civil rights movement, submitted his bill on civil rights to Congress on June 19. First, the bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee. Then, in November 1963, it was passed to the Rules Committee. The chairman on the Rules Committee was Howard W. Smith. Smith was an devoted segregationist and completely against the civil rights movement. He made it clear he intended to keep the legislation from coming to a vote on the House Floor.
After the assassination of President Kennedy, President Lyndon Johnson began pressuring the Rules Committee to release the stalled legislation. Finally, on January 30, Smith allowed the bill to be passed to the full House. In fact, two days before the House vote, Smith asked for the word “sex” to be added after the word “religion”, as he was a supporter of women’s rights.
- Two black students, Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood, arrived to the University of Alabama with the intention to sign up for classes on June 11. Governor George Wallace, accompanied by a group of Alabama state troupers, prevented the students from entering. Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach then asked President Kennedy for help. Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard that same day. Malone and Hood were escorted by 100 guardsmen to the university to enroll as students.
- The legislation was passed by the House on February 10, 1964. The final vote was 290-130. When the bill was passed to the Senate for debate, the “Southern Bloc” of 18 senators began a filibuster to prevent its passage. The filibuster, which allowed the group of senators to speak for as long as they wish on any topic, lasted for 54 days. On June 19, the filibuster was cut off and a version of the bill was passed by the Senate.
The civil rights movement was about fighting for equality in basic human rights. It was a time of motivational speeches and protests lead by civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. It was, and still is, an important part of history and the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was just a fraction of the steps taken towards equality.