In a nationally televised address on June 6, 1963, President John F. Kennedy urged the nation to take action toward guaranteeing equal treatment of every American regardless of race. Soon after, Kennedy proposed that Congress consider civil rights legislation that would address voting rights, public accommodations, school desegregation, nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs, and more.
Despite Kennedy’s assassination in November of 1963, his proposal culminated in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson just a few hours after House approval on July 2, 1964. The act outlawed segregation in businesses such as theaters, restaurants, and hotels. It banned discriminatory practices in employment and ended segregation in public places such as swimming pools, libraries, and public schools.
Passage of the act was not easy. House opposition bottled up the bill in the House Rules Committee. In the Senate, Southern Democratic opponents attempted to talk the bill to death in a filibuster. In early 1964, House supporters overcame the Rules Committee obstacle by threatening to send the bill to the floor without committee approval. The Senate filibuster was overcome through the floor leadership of Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, the considerable support of President Lyndon Johnson and the efforts of Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois, who convinced enough Republicans to support the bill over Democratic opposition.
For additional information about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with related documents, visit the National Archives’ Digital Classroom Teaching With Documents Lesson Plan.
A transcript and recording of President Kennedy's speech is available online from the John F. Kennedy Library.
For additional information on the act’s history, passage, and impact, see the CongressLink website.