The implementation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a pivotal moment in America’s history since it signaled the end of the widespread discrimination that African Americans experienced in the U.S. for centuries. It paved the way for the rights and privileges that many races in the U.S. enjoy equally today and has been the basis for the creation of various new laws and policies that focus on the protection of individual rights, liberties, and freedoms.
The following are the events that contributed significantly towards its implementation:
- Student Sit-ins that Occurred During the Early 1960s.
- John F. Kennedy’s Civil Rights Speech.
- The March on Washington.
- The Creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
If there is one lesson that can be learned from these events, it is that people, no matter their origin, religion, or race, deserve to be treated equally and justly.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 manifested due to a combination of political will and significant public outcries regarding the lack of rights and freedoms for various minority populations within the United States. One of the first triggers that started its creation was the different student sit-ins that occurred during the early 1960s. These actions were conducted by African American students and their Caucasian sympathizers to show the hypocrisy behind racial segregation and how such practices were against the fundamental rights and freedoms that all individuals were entitled to by virtue of their birth (Nimtz, 2016).
Using peaceful methods of protest (i.e. black students and their sympathizers sitting in areas within cafeterias that were reserved primarily for Caucasians), they were able to bring to light the issue of segregation and how it demeans African Americans.
From its initial start in the Dockum Drug Store, the “sit-in” movement spread to various southern states which brought national attention to the issue and even resulted in different stores, cafeterias, and other establishments reversing their segregationist practices. The contribution of this event towards the creation of the Civil Rights Act is based on how it showed that the practice of segregation was the product of a bygone era. It demonstrated that whites and blacks could stand together, equally, for a common cause and revealed that the differences between the two were just in the color of their skin.
The second contributing event to the Civil Rights Act was John F. Kennedy’s Civil Rights Address that occurred on June 11, 1963. Through his speech, Kennedy transformed the fight for civil rights from a legal concern into a moral issue that impacted each and every single American (Tomek, 2014). The importance of this speech towards the Civil Rights movement is based on who was making it and the contents of the speech itself.
Based on his position as the President of the United States, Kenney was able to show that there were people in the government that cared about the rights and freedoms of African Americans. This gave a considerable amount of credibility towards the protestors clamoring for equal rights and showed the general public that segregation is a practice that should be stopped based on moral responsibility towards upholding the freedoms that the U.S. stood for. Through the Civil Rights Address, the black population became emboldened towards more outward action which led toward the March on Washington.
The third contributing event towards the Civil Rights Act comes in the form of the March on Washington, which occurred on August 28, 1963, a few months after the Civil Rights Address of Kennedy. The March was an organized event that predominantly consisted of African Americans with a few minority groups mixed in as well. Its purpose was to bring about changes in the way in which civil rights and economic freedoms are accorded to minority populations within the United States.
Martin Luthor King Jr. delivered his timeless “I Have A Dream” speech on the culmination of the march on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and nearly 300,000 people were a part of it (King, 2015). It was this very movement that contributed towards the passing of the Civil Rights Act since it showed to the general public within the U.S. that the African American people deserved to have equal rights.
The final event that will be discussed is the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its contribution to the development of equal rights and freedoms within the United States. The events that have been discussed all have one aspect in common, they showed the urgency for changing an old policy that contributed towards divisiveness rather than solidarity. The Civil Rights Act is more than a means of giving people of all races, genders, and religions equal rights; it is a symbol of solidarity.
It stands as a reminder that regardless of where a person comes from, what they worship, or whatever ethnicity they may be, so long as they uphold the tenets of freedom and democracy, they are true Americans. Despite it being 60 years since its creation, the Civil Rights Act continues to have an impact on the lives of people today. This can be seen in the policies of gender equality in the workplace, the non-discrimination policies that companies have put in place, and how American society itself has become more accepting of people from unique circumstances (ex: the acceptance of gay marriage).
King, R. H. (2015). ‘How long? Not long’: Selma , Martin Luther King and civil rights narratives. Patterns Of Prejudice, 49(5), 466-485.
Nimtz, A. H. (2016). Violence and/or Nonviolence in the Success of the Civil Rights Movement: The Malcolm X–Martin Luther King, Jr. Nexus. New Political Science, 38(1), 1-22.
Tomek, B. C. (2014). “A Stalking Horse for the Civil Rights Movement”: Head Start and the Legacy of the Freedom Schools. Southern Quarterly, 52(1), 115.