From the Archives: ADL & the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Part 3

  • July 3, 2014

On June 10, 1964, a year after President Kennedy first introduced the Civil Rights Act to the nation in a televised address, a coalition of 44 Democrats and 27 Republicans voted for cloture, which limited further debate and ended the 57-day filibuster of the bill.

ADL had lobbied for the bill in the months prior, including organizing a meeting of 100 Jewish business, professional, and civic leaders from all over the United States, who met in Washington, DC, and urged their home-state Senators to take action towards passage of the bill.

In a press release reacting to the Senate’s vote for cloture, ADL National Chairman Dore Schary stated:

The vote on the cloture rule which now assures passage of the Civil Rights Act is a victory for all who love justice and love an America conceived in liberty. It is a defeat for no one except those who would prevent America from achieving its ultimate dream… For the thousands of civil rights leaders and for the country as a whole, the final passage of the Civil Rights Bill will provide new opportunities, which they dare not squander, to help our Negro citizens achieve a full measure of their rights as Americans.

The Civil Rights Act passed the Senate with a vote of 73-27 on June 19.

On June 21, the same day on which three civil rights workers were kidnapped and murdered in Mississippi, the Illinois Rally for Civil Rights was held at Chicago’s Soldier Field. The Anti-Defamation League was among the sponsors of the rally, which featured the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. The rally was planned to urge passage by the Senate, but was ultimately anti-climactic, as passage by the House was the imminent. ADL’s Midwest Director A. Abott Rosen described the day:

There was no question of Jewish participation, there were no suspicions on the parts of blacks of Jews or other whites on this glorious day. We didn’t take a head count of the number of blacks and the number of



whites present in Soldiers Field that day, but to my eye, I would suggest that the group was almost equally divided.

On July 2, the House of Representatives voted by more than a two-thirds margin (289-126) to adopt the Senate-passed version of the Civil Rights Act. That day, President Johnson signed the bill in a nationally broadcast ceremony.

ADL’s National Program Director Oscar Cohen later recalled:

The question arose in ADL circles frequently as to why ADL was so totally involved with the struggle for equal rights for blacks … First, we claimed, that no minority was safe unless all minorities were and prejudice and discrimination could not be cured in our society unless the cure related to all minorities … if civil rights laws were passed, such as fair employment and fair housing laws, they would at one stroke eliminate discrimination against all groups, including Jews.

Today, ADL is help­ing to lead a very large coali­tion work­ing to fight dis­crim­i­na­tion, pro­mote equality, and pro­tect the same vot­ing rights for which civil rights workers Michael Schw­erner, Andrew Good­man, and James Chaney gave their lives. The League is urg­ing broad sup­port for the Vot­ing Rights Amend­ment Act of 2014 (VRAA), which would cre­ate a new for­mula for pre-clearing vot­ing rights changes.

Fifty years later, ADL commemorates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a paramount step towards our core value “to secure justice and fair treatment for all” and reaffirms our dedication to continue the fight in the ongoing struggle for equality.