Areas of Advice

  • No categories

The Advice Archive

Civil Rights Act of 1964

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Pub. L. No. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241 (July 2, 1964), in the United States was landmark legislation outlawing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Originally conceived to protect the rights of black men, the bill was amended prior to passage to protect the civil rights of all men and women.

The Act transformed American society. It prohibited discrimination in public facilities, in government, and in employment. The “Jim Crow” laws in the South were abolished, and it was illegal to compel segregation of the races in schools, housing, or hiring. Enforcement powers were initially weak, but they grew over the years, and later programs (such as affirmative action) were made possible by the Act.

Legislative history

The bill was promised by President John F. Kennedy in his civil rights speech of June 11 1963, in which he asked for legislation that would provide “the kind of equality of treatment which we would want for ourselves.” He then sent the bill to Congress on June 19, when it was introduced in Congress by Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield. Kennedy was unable to advance the bill, but after his death, the President Lyndon Johnson decided to use his power in Congress to pass it. Despite an 83-day filibuster in the Senate by Southern Democrats, both parties in Congress voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Act, and President Johnson signed the bill into law on July 2, 1964.

Vote statistics

Vote totals

  • The Original House Version: 290-130
  • The Senate Version: 73-27
  • The Senate Version, as voted on by the House: 289-126

By Party

The Original House Version:

  • Democratic Party: 153-96
  • Republican Party: 138-34

The Senate Version:

  • Democratic Party: 46-22
  • Republican Party: 27-6

The Senate Version, voted on by the House:

  • Democratic Party: 153-91
  • Republican Party: 136-35

Switches in position:

“Yea” to “Nay”: Earl Wilson (R-IN), Bob Wilson (R-CA), and Charlotte T. Reid (R-IL)

“Nay” to “Yea”: John Jacob Rhodes (R-AZ), J. Edward Hutchinson (R-MI), and Charles Weltner (D-GA).

By Party and Region

The Original House Version:

  • Southern Democrats: 7-87
  • Southern Republicans: 0-10
  • Northern Democrats: 145-9
  • Northern Republicans: 138-24

The Senate Version:

  • Southern Democrats: 1-21
  • Southern Republicans: 0-1
  • Northern Democrats: 46-1
  • Northern Republicans: 27-5

Women’s rights

Howard W. Smith, the powerful Virginian who chaired the House Rules Committee, opposed civil rights laws for blacks, but he supported them for women. He had long been close to Alice Paul, one of the leaders of the suffrage movement in the 1910s and 1920s, and at her urging included gender as a protected category. Black leaders did not want the amendment but were powerless to stop it, and as a result a major advance for women’s rights was achieved.

Political Repercussions

“We have lost the South for a generation.” — Lyndon Johnson, to an aide, immediately after signing the Act.

The bill divided and engendered a long-term change in the demographics of both political parties. President Johnson realized that supporting this bill would mean losing the South’s overwhelming support of the Democratic Party. Although large majorities of both parties voted for the bill, there were notable exceptions. Republican senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona voted against the bill, remarking, “You can’t legislate morality”.

Most Democrats from the Southern states opposed the bill, including Tennessee senator Albert Gore Sr., Arkansas senator J. William Fulbright, and West Virginia senator Robert Byrd. Goldwater went on to secure his party’s nomination for the presidency, and in the ensuing election, Goldwater won only his home state of Arizona and five of the Deep South states — four of which had not voted Republican since the disputed presidential election of 1876. This marked the end of the Solid South.

Major Features

Click here for the full text of the Act.

Title I

Barred unequal application of voter registration requirements, but did not abolish literacy tests sometimes used to disqualify African Americans and poor white voters.

“It shall be the duty of the judge designated pursuant to this section to assign the case for hearing at the earliest practicable date and to cause the case to be in every way expedited.”

Title II

Outlawed discrimination in hotels, motels, restaurants, theaters, and all other public accommodations engaged in interstate commerce; exempted private clubs without defining the term “private.”

Title III

Encouraged the desegregation of public schools and authorized the U. S. Attorney General to file suits to force desegregation,

Title VI

Guaranteed equal protection for blacks in federally funded programs by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in programs and activities that receive “federal financial assistance.” Also promises protection to those facing undue harassment in public places such as university campuses.

Title VII

Title VII of the Act, codified as Subchapter VI of Chapter 21 of Title 42 of the United States Code, et seq., outlaws discrimination in employment in any business on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Title VII also prohibits retaliation against employees who oppose such unlawful discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces Title VII . The EEOC investigates, mediates, and sometimes files lawsuits on behalf of employees. Title VII also provides that an individual can bring a private lawsuit. An individual must file a complaint of discrimination with the EEOC within 180 days of learning of the discrimination or the individual may lose the right to file a lawsuit. Title VII only applies to employers who employ 15 or more employees for more than 19 weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.

In the late 1970s courts began holding that sexual harassment is also prohibited under the Act. In 1986 the Supreme Court held in Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986), that sexual harassment is sex discrimination and is prohibited by Title VII. Title VII has been supplemented with legislation prohibiting pregnancy, age, and disability discrimination (See Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990).


  • Robert D. Loevy, To End All Segregation: The Politics of the Passage Of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (1990)
  • Robert D. Loevy, ed; The Civil Rights Act of 1964: The Passage of the Law That Ended Racial Segregation, State University of New York Press. (1997)
  • Daniel B. Rodriguez and Barry R. Weingast; “The Positive Political Theory of Legislative History: New Perspectives on the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Its Interpretation” ,University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 151. (2003)
  • Charles and Barbara Whalen, The Longest Debate: A Legislative History of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Cabin John, Maryland: Seven Locks Press. (1985).

External Links

Article forked from Wikipedia by Jennifer Kirk.