The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 2, 1964. The Act prohibited discrimination in public places, provided for the integration of schools and other public facilities and made employment discrimination illegal based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The document was the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction.
As we commemorate the anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, we have an opportunity to teach and learn more about the history of discrimination and racism in the United States, the struggle for civil rights, the Civil Rights Act, and the strides we have made as well as the work that remains to be done.
Some of your students may not know that, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 that school segregation was unconstitutional, in the 1960s, in many communities in the United States, African American and white people were still segregated in schools, public transportation and restaurants. Discrimination prevented many African Americans from receiving equal consideration for employment and education. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 sought to legally prohibit and punish these injustices. And while many leaders at that time reminded the public that laws alone cannot shape “the hearts and minds” of people, the power of government through laws is critical to bring about change.
Download "7 Ways to Commemorate the Anniversary" (PDF) to help you teach about the Civil Rights Act in your classroom.