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1964The Civil Rights Act

The Ongoing Fight for Rights

Photograph of protesters with signs

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 1963

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act

President Lyndon B. Johnson Signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act

President Lyndon B. Johnson Signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964

In 1963, as the Civil Rights Movement swept the nation, a reluctant President John F. Kennedy introduced the Civil Rights Act. President Lyndon B. Johnson, Kennedy's successor, signed the Act into law in 1964, creating sweeping reforms to ensure and increase equal rights for African Americans. The legislation also ended racial discrimination in public accommodations, employment, and federally funded programs. The Act opened the door for additional reforms, including the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which ended discrimination in housing. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is part of a long continuum of civil rights acts created to ensure and expand the rights of African Americans.

During Reconstruction, Black people continued their push for citizenship and equal rights. Shortly after the 13th Amendment passed in 1865, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which granted citizenship rights. The 14th Amendment was passed in 1868, granting African Americans citizenship, due process, and equal protection. Charles Sumner, U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, asked fellow abolitionist Frederick Douglass to help secure the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1875 to enforce the Reconstruction Amendments. This Act passed but was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1883. The end of Reconstruction ushered in decades of discriminatory laws that disenfranchised and restricted the freedoms of African Americans. Despite the violence of Jim Crow, African Americans challenged these laws at the federal, state, and local level, in the years leading up to the passage of 1964 Civil Rights Act. Today, the fight continues.