The main features of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

SHARE The main features of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. More than 100 years after the end of the Civil War, the law sought finally to guarantee equality and provide the protection of justice to all races and creeds in the United States.

Following on the heels of such landmark Supreme Court cases as Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in conjunction with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, was intended to finally put a nail in the coffin of Jim Crow America and guarantee and enforce the rights put forth in the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, focusing on the vote.

Here’s a look at the major provisions of the act and the full law itself below:

Title I—Voting Rights

Offered the protection of equal voter registration requirements, though did not outlawliteracy tests and similar restrictions often used againtAfrican-Americans and other disenfranchised voters.

Title II—Public Accommodations

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

Title III—Desegregation of Public Facilities

Federal relief and protection against discrimination in public places and businesses.

Title IV—Desegregation of Public Education

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

Title V—Civil Rights Commission

Expanded the mandate of the Civil RightsCommission and broadened the duties laid out in its creation in 1957.

Title VI—Nondiscrimination in Federally Assisted Programs

No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

Title VII—Equal Employment Opportunity

Outlawed discrimination in employment in any business exceeding twenty five people and creates an Equal Employment Opportunities Commission to review complaints.

Title VIII—Registration and Voting Statistics

Directed the Census Bureau to collect registration and voting statistics based on race, color and national origin but provided that individuals could not be compelled to disclose such information.

Title IX—Intervention and Removal of Cases

Made reviewable in high federal courts the action of federal district courts in remanding a civil rights case to state court and authorized the Attorney General to intervene in certain private suits.

Title X—Community Relations Service

Created the Service to aid communities in resolving disputes relating to discriminatory practices based on race, color, or national origin.

Title XI—Miscellaneous

Established Community Relations Service to assist in settling disputes around discrimination claims.

Politico has also taken a look at the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — specifically, why it couldn’t pass today.

The climate in today’s Washington is so different from the one that produced what many scholars view as the most important law of the 20th century that celebrating the law’s legacy is awkward for Republicans and Democrats alike. Neither party bears much resemblance to its past counterpart, and the bipartisanship that carried the day then is now all but dead.

National Public Radio has put together an annotated site breaking down much of the legislation, legal impacts and historical documentation of the act.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964

Here are five things to know about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, via the Associated Press:


The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was not the first attempt by Congress to pass sweeping legislation aimed at ending discrimination.

According to, legislation failed in the House and Senate every year from 1945 until 1957, when Congress passed, and President Dwight Eisenhower signed, a law allowing federal prosecutors to seek court injunctions to stop voting rights interference. That law, the Civil Rights Act of 1957, also created the Justice Department’s civil rights section, and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, then a Democrat, filibustered the bill for 24 hours and 18 minutes, the longest one-man filibuster on record.

That law was followed by the Civil Rights Act of 1960, which introduced penalties for obstructing or attempting to obstruct someone’s attempt to register to vote or actually vote, and for obstructing federal court orders in school discrimination cases.


President John F. Kennedy first suggested the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in a televised speech from the Oval Office. He said he would ask Congress “to make a commitment it has not fully made in this century to the proposition that race has no place in American life or law.” Kennedy was assassinated before the bill could become law.

Johnson, in addressing a joint session of Congress on Nov. 27, 1963, said “no memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy’s memory” than passing the civil rights bill.


Rep. Howard Smith, D-Va., chairman of the House Rules Committee, advocated adding the word “sex” behind “religion” to the original bill to address gender equality. “I do not think it can do any harm to this legislation; maybe it can do some good,” he said. Some suggested that Smith, a segregationist Democrat, was actually attempting to kill the bill; He said his intention was to ensure white women got the same protection.

Segregationists and conservative Democrats supported Smith’s amendment. Northern Republicans — who supported the bill — opposed the amendment out of fear that it could kill the entire bill. One woman lawmaker, Rep. Edith Green, D-Ore., agreed, saying it was more important to secure rights for blacks first.

“For every discrimination that has been made against a woman in this country, there has been ten times as much discrimination against the Negro,” Green said.

Rep. Martha Griffiths, D-Mich., opposed efforts to take women out. “A vote against this amendment today by a white man is a vote against his wife, or his widow, or his daughter or his sister,” she said.

The House approved the amendment.


Because of the Civil Rights Act, two civil rights activists with very different approaches, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, had their first and only face-to-face encounter. On March 26, 1964, King and Malcolm X were both in Washington for the Senate debate on the Civil Rights Act. According to Peter Louis Goldman, author of a book about Malcolm X, said the Muslim activist slipped into the back row of one of King’s news conferences. When King left by one door, Malcolm X left by another and intercepted him.

“Well, Malcolm, good to see you,” King said.

“Good to see you,” Malcolm X replied.

They were photographed smiling warmly and shaking hands. As they parted, Goldman said, Malcolm X remarked jokingly: “Now you’re going to get investigated.”

In his autobiography, King said of the encounter: “Circumstances didn’t enable me to talk with him for more than a minute.”


Congress followed up with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which banned the use of literacy tests, added federal oversight for minority voters and allowed federal prosecutors to investigate the use of poll taxes in state and local elections. The law was prompted in part by the “Bloody Sunday” attack by police on marchers crossing a Selma, Alabama, bridge that year.

That same year, Johnson issued Executive Order 11246, which bans government contractors from discriminating in employment decisions, and requires them to “take affirmative action” to ensure that employees are treated without regard to their race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, created as a result of the 1964 law, came into being in 1965 to enforce federal laws making it illegal to discriminate at work. Most employers with at least 15 workers are covered by the EEOC.

Seven days after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which provided equal housing opportunities regardless of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin.

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