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1964 Civil Rights Act Helped Make America a More Inclusive Society

Updated on April 27, 2014
Participants in a Diversity Conference.
Participants in a Diversity Conference. | Source

People often complain about the state of affairs in the country without understanding the improvements made over the years. Some are oblivious to the fact that large percentages of the national population could not vote, attend certain schools or obtain a decent job until the second half of the 20th century.

It took the concerted efforts of activists, politicians and community members to create the change future generations enjoy. Now, it is possible for anyone who feels his or her civil rights violated to file a federal lawsuit to seek help.

The Push For Change

The Civil Rights Movement began in earnest during the 1950s. During that decade, Southerners began pressing for equality. At the time, Southern state segregation laws prevented the races from mixing socially, publicly and, quite often, professionally. Consequently, minorities endured second-class treatment in many areas of life.

Prominent civil rights leaders, emboldened by victories in a series of graduate-level education cases during the 1940s, pursued the historic Brown vs. Board of Education litigation in 1954.

In its Brown decision, the United States Supreme Court unanimously declared racial segregation in public schools inherently unconstitutional. Subsequently, the nation would witness increased challenges to legalized segregation throughout the era.

Thurgood Marshall laid the groundwork for the NAACP's success in Brown through years of cases in Southern courtrooms.
Thurgood Marshall laid the groundwork for the NAACP's success in Brown through years of cases in Southern courtrooms. | Source

The Civil Rights Movement

During the 1950s and 1960s, civil rights activists led widespread protests that highlighted the inequality present in American society. These protestors employed a wide range of tactics, including sit-ins, boycotts and marches.

In 1963, the Civil Rights Movement perhaps reached its zenith when over 200,000 marchers descended upon the nation's capital to participate in a demonstration calling for jobs and freedom. The following year, Congress would pass, and President Lyndon Baines Johnson would sign, the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law.
President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law. | Source

A Powerful Civil Rights Law

The 1964 Civil Rights Act made racial discrimination illegal.

No longer can hotel owners deny potential guests accommodations because of their race. It is no longer acceptable for employers to hire minorities only for menial positions.

Since the inception of the Act, the United States has become a more inclusive society.

More Work to be Done

America's relative success in eradicating systemic discrimination is not complete. Despite national and state laws to protect the rights of all citizens, there remains work to be done. For example, private individuals may still hold prejudices against those who they deem different.

Nevertheless, contemporary America differs from its past because today's civil rights attorneys have the full support of the law at their disposal. This fact means Americans do not have to suffer indignities in silence as was once common.


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