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Civil Rights Act (1964)

Partly due to the work of leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., the American public was growing more aware of racial discrimination in society. President John F. Kennedy proposed civil rights legislation during his campaign, and eventually sent a bill to Congress in 1963. After Kennedy’s assassination, President Lyndon Johnson took up the cause. The Civil Rights Act, passed by Congress after an 83-day Senate filibuster, made racial discrimination illegal in businesses like restaurants, movie theaters and hotels. Segregation in libraries, schools, and other public facilities was prohibited. Private employers could not discriminate in hiring, and federal funding could be cut off from projects in cases of racial discrimination. The Act also called for uniform standards for voting rights.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 originally included protections only against racial discrimination. At the urging of Alice Paul, however, sex discrimination was also made illegal in the bill.

The Act touched on constitutional principles including equality and majority rule versus minority rights, and highlights the place of law in American society.