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The Civil Rights Act of 1964

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President Lyndon Baines Johnson signing Civil Rights Bill, April 11, 1968.

Support for a federal Civil Rights Act was one of the goals of the 1963 March on Washington. President John F. Kennedy had introduced the bill before his assassination. His successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, signed it into law on July 2, 1964. It achieved many of the aims of a Reconstruction-era law, the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which was passed but soon overturned.

The landmark 1964 act barred discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin in public facilities -- such as restaurants, theaters, or hotels. Discrimination in hiring practices was also outlawed, and the act established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to help enforce the law. Although the law attempted to legislate fair election practices, not all the ways used to deny blacks a vote could be covered; the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would be required to address this issue comprehensively.

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