Civil Rights Act of 1964


The following discussion started with this FACEBOOK post from Carey Borth:

July 2, 1964, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signs into law the historic Civil Rights Act in a nationally televised ceremony at the White House. In the landmark 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional.

The 10 years that followed saw great strides for the African-American civil rights movement, as non-violent demonstrations won thousands of supporters to the cause. Memorable landmarks in the struggle included the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955–sparked by the refusal of Alabama resident Rosa Parks to give up her seat on a city bus to a white woman–and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I have a dream” speech at a rally of hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C., in 1963.

As the strength of the civil rights movement grew, John F. Kennedy made passage of a new civil rights bill one of the platforms of his successful 1960 presidential campaign. As Kennedy’s vice president, Johnson served as chairman of the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunities. After Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, Johnson vowed to carry out his proposals for civil rights reform.

The Civil Rights Act fought tough opposition in the House and a lengthy, heated debate in the Senate before being approved in July 1964. For the signing of the historic legislation, Johnson invited hundreds of guests to a televised ceremony in the White House’s East Room. After using more than 75 pens to sign the bill, he gave them away as mementoes of the historic occasion, according to tradition. One of the first pens went to King, leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), who called it one of his most cherished possessions. Johnson gave two more to Senators Hubert Humphrey and Everett McKinley Dirksen, the Democratic and Republican managers of the bill in the Senate.

The most sweeping civil rights legislation passed by Congress since the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, the Civil Rights Act prohibited racial discrimination in employment and education and outlawed racial segregation in public places such as schools, buses, parks and swimming pools. In addition, the bill laid important groundwork for a number of other pieces of legislation–including the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which set strict rules for protecting the right of African Americans to vote–that have since been used to enforce equal rights for women as well as all minorities.

I added these comments:

What preceded this as the law of the land was the horrendous error supported by the Supreme Court known as the “Jim Crow” laws and etiquette, the concept that the Constitution could be appeased by proclaiming “separate but equal” was allowable. A platform of the tea party currently advocates a return to such a reading of the Constitution (as well as a return to the literal interpretation which proclaims that only white male landowners can vote).

The horrific part of “separate but equal” was that white folks, with all the power, were exceptionally good at the “separate” part, but completely and deliberately failed at the “equal” part. Even today, many white folks are myopic about the results of the Jim Crow delusion of “equal” and consider themselves to be, somehow, “victims” of some imaginary discrimination supposedly similar to that which was imposed upon generations of African-Americans.

This was recent history. Many adult “colored folks” today had to, in their formative youth, endure the humiliation and degradation every day of “White” entrances and “Colored” entrances to restaurants and shops, of “White” bathrooms versus “Colored” bathrooms, drinking fountains, public transportation, etc. The “White” premises where always superior to the “Colored” premises. (The significance of Rosa Parks sitting not in the rear of the bus with other colored folks, but in the front of the bus with white folks, was that she violated the etiquette and separation of Jim Crow. Can you imagine today how it could be possible to have an historic and society-changing impact because of where YOU sat on a bus??)

Further, the etiquette and practice of Jim Crow led to the domestic terrorism of the further perversion of Lynch “law” (vigilantism spawned during the revolution by Judge Lynch who took mobs out to hang those Tories who opposed the revolution but where set free by tory-leaning judges). Hundreds of African-Americans were killed by various forms of Lynch actions — hanging, burning, castration, dragging, etc. — as a sign to other African-Americans to “know their place.”

THIS is what the Civil Rights era was battling. It took tremendous courage to fight the inbred white supremacy that denigrated every aspect of the lives of African-Americans for two centuries in this country.

The significance of the Civil Rights Act is more profound than most people can absorb without knowledge of what existed before it.

And I must pitch my book Nate and Kelly, which is a story about these issues.

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One thought on “Civil Rights Act of 1964

  1. The United States is really composed of a bunch of little countries. It is really neat to see how there are different rules in each state and how each of them keep order. I am surprised that there isn’t more war between states but I think someday there will be. There is too much pride in each one for bad things not to happen some day. It might not be a bad idea to just have one law for all states instead of them being able to create their own. Thoughts?

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