The civil rights movement was a struggle for social justice that took place mainly during the
The 1950s and 1960s. Many blacks used this as a platform to gain equal rights under the law in the United States. The Civil War had officially abolished slavery, but it didn’t end
discrimination against blacks as they continued to endure the devastating effects of racism,
especially in the South. After years of fighting bigotry, the legislation known as the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 was finally enforced.
What is The Civil Rights Act?
Signed by U.S President Lyndon B. Johnson, The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended
segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination based on race, color,
religion, sex or national origin, is considered one of the crowning legislative achievements of the civil rights movement.
What is the significance of the Civil Rights Act?
The passing of the Act was an iconic moment of the 20th century not just for the country but for the entire world as discrimination is not just a national issue but a global one. The
legislation banned all discrimination based on race, sex or national origin, as well as any form of racial segregation. Although the act was the culmination of the American civil rights
movement, historians agree that it was ultimately sparked by the so-called “Birmingham
campaign.” The Birmingham campaign was a smaller political movement asking for equal
rights in Birmingham, Alabama, which was started by the local black reverend, Fred
Shuttlesworth, and occurred a year before the Civil Rights Act.
President John F. Kennedy, a notable supporter of the Civil Rights Movement was killed
while he was trying to get the bill passed through to Congress. This civil rights bill was so
important to President Kennedy that Lyndon Johnson said during his first presidential speech, “No memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy’s memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long”. Aside from the obvious social changes that the bill brought about, which continues to have an influence to this day, the bill also had a profound political effect. The South became a stronghold of the Republican Party for the first time in American history and has remained so ever since. In fact, Lyndon Johnson, the man who signed the Civil Rights Act, won that year’s Presidential Election by a landslide despite being warned that support for the Civil Rights Act might cost him the election. This is attributable to the many supporters of the anti-discrimination movement who turned out the polls, and who did not only include African-Americans but also Caucasians and other races.
The Impact of The Civil Rights Act
The Civil Rights Act led to greater social and economic mobility for African-Americans
across the nation. It also banned racial discrimination, providing greater access to resources for women, religious minorities, African-Americans and low-income families. Additionally, the Act paved the way for subsequent civil rights legislation for African-Americans and other minority groups including the removal of discriminatory barriers to voting (Voting Rights Act of 1965), protection from discrimination when Americans are renting, buying or paying for housing (Fair Housing Act of 1968), and specific protections under the law for Americans with disabilities (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990).
The Civil Rights Act has paved the way for many people of color, women, and other
minorities to gain equal rights and opportunities. Equality was not easy to gain in the US.
Every generation since the Civil Rights era should remember to thank those who came before us for the sacrifices they made which we continue to benefit from today.
PUBLIC NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the Urban Intellectuals, affiliates or partners.