Historical Highlights

The Civil Rights Act of 1964

July 02, 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 Photograph by Cecil Stoughton, courtesy of the LBJ Library On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. Those gathered behind President Johnson at the bill signing included civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., and future District of Columbia Delegate Walter Fauntroy.
On this date, the House of Representatives passed the final version of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. With momentum building for congressional action on the issue of civil rights, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Emanuel Celler of New York and Ranking Member William McCulloch of Ohio led a bipartisan coalition to shepherd the landmark legislation through the House. Prior to its passage, Congressman Charles Weltner of Georgia, an initial opponent of the bill, remarked on the House Floor, “Mr. Speaker, I shall cast my lot with the leadership of my community. I shall cast my vote with that greater cause they serve. I will add my voice to those who seek reasoned and conciliatory adjustment to a new reality. And finally, I would urge that we at home now move on to the unfinished task of building a new South. We must not remain forever bound to another lost cause.” The act, the most significant civil rights legislation passed since the Reconstruction Era, prohibited discrimination in public accommodations and state and municipal facilities. In addition to incorporating the famed Powell Amendment—a rider barring federal funds for institutions that promoted or endorsed segregation—the bill also prohibited discrimination in hiring and employment and created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate workplace discrimination. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed P.L. 88–352 only a few hours after its overwhelming approval in the House, 289 to 126. “Let us close the springs of racial poison,” the President urged with much fanfare during the nationally televised signing of the historic legislation. “Let us lay aside irrelevant differences and make our Nation whole.”

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