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It's been 60 years since the landmark Civil Rights Act was signed into law

Lawmakers from both parties, and civil rights leaders including Martin Luther King Jr., surrounded President Lyndon B. Johnson as he signed it.
Civil Rights Summitt
Posted at 9:33 AM, Jul 02, 2024

Tuesday marks the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.

On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the sweeping Civil Rights Act into law in the East Room of the White House.

Lawmakers from both parties, and civil rights leaders including Martin Luther King Jr., surrounded him.

"The passage of the Civil Rights Act was possible because of the persistent non-violent efforts of countless heroes; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and John F. Kennedy inspired our generations,” said Luis Clavell, program specialist at the Library of Congress.

The measure prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, sex or national origin.

It also forbids discrimination in voting, public accommodations, public facilities, public education and federally funded programs.

The act dismantled many of the policies of the Jim Crow era that ratified segregation and discrimination against Black Americans.

The fight for equality took years, with fierce opposition from white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan.

Scenes of police releasing dogs to attack Black protesters galvanized support for change.

In an interview for the Library of Congress marking the 50th anniversary, the former chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had described the effort it took to pass the measure.

"It was not just dear friends of mine like John Lewis who were doing the work out there. It was some of us who were working with the government, including a white president who was fulfilling these dreams and who was sometimes pushed and sometimes pushed — Black people to use more sense in what they were doing ,or Black people pushed them to have more sense in the legislation they were passing. It did not happen in a vacuum,” said former chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Clifford Alexander.

The National Urban League describes the Civil Rights Act as the first time the government addressed the racial caste system in the U.S.

But the league says the fight for equality is far from over.

Civil rights advocates point to changes in voting laws in a number of states, the dismantling of diversity policies in education and employment, and the ongoing examination of racism in policing as evidence of much more work to be done.

But in 1964, there was a celebration of a significant step toward change.