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July 2: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is Signed

By July 2, 2012

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Lyndon B. Johnson signs Civil Rights Act of 1964 Public Domain Forty-eight years ago today President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law banned discrimination in public facilities, racial segregation in schools and established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to fight against workplace discrimination. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also abolished voter registration requirements such as poll taxes and literacy tests that had systemically kept African-Americans from voting. Johnson's decision to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was not an act of pure altruism. Instead, it was the work of civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Thurgood Marshall whose efforts helped both black and white Americans understand the importance of fighting for change in society. After signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Johnson told Americans: "we have come to a time of testing. We must not fail. Let us close the springs of racial poison. Let us pray for wise and understanding hearts. Let us lay aside irrelevant differences and make our nation whole. Let us hasten that day when our unmeasured strength and our unbounded spirit will be free to do the great works ordained for this nation by the just and wise God who is the father of us all.'' Months later, when Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he agreed with Johnson's words saying, "The problem is far from solved. We still have a long, long way to go before the dream of freedom is a reality for the Negro in the United States." Some people believe that ending societal racism has been a constant battle in the United States--that peace has not been achieved. However, what do you think has been the greatest achievement of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?


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