Marc Morial


(NNPA)—“The purpose of the law is simple…those who are equal before God shall now also be equal in the polling booths, in the classrooms, in the factories, and in hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, and other places that provide service to the public.”—President Lyndon B. Johnson, July 2, 1964

July 2 marked the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 that outlawed discrimination and segregation based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The Civil Rights Act also paved the way for another historic achievement one year later—the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Momentum for the legislation picked up following the 1963 March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the National Urban League’s Whitney M. Young, along with 250,000 activists and citizens, gathered to demand “Jobs and Freedom.”President John F. Kennedy introduced the bill in June of 1963, just five months before his death.

It was up to President Lyndon Johnson, to carry it over the finish line. Despite opposition, Johnson successfully navigated the bill’s passage. He signed it into law on July 2, 1964, surrounded by Dr. King, Whitney Young and a multi-racial group of civil rights activists.

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