For years, the American society was marred by incidents of discrimination based on gender, race, and ethnicity. The fight for civil liberty over these years had a significant impact on the countrys society as a whole. Among the most major achievement of this struggle were two major civil rights legislations adopted and passed by the Congress. These laws were aimed at protecting the constitutional rights of black Americans and other minorities in the country. Although when the Civil WAR ended these rights were guaranteed under the nations constitution, they were never fully implemented and enforced. The 1964 Civil Rights Act was the key breakthrough for civil rights activists. The Act is accredited for ending employment discrimination on the grounds of color race, sex, religion, or nationality and ended segregation in public places. The primary purpose of this paper is to analyze the 1964 landmark legislation, its history, implementation, impact on businesses and the society in general, and its effectiveness in achieving what it was set out to accomplish.
History of the Act
After the Civil War of 1861 to 1865, three key constitutional amendments banned slavery, awarded former slaves citizen statuses, and guaranteed voting rights to all men regardless of race. Despite this, some states especially those in the South used poll taxes, literacy examinations, among other measures to keep African Americans disenfranchised. These states also enforced crunching segregation policy through the Jim Crow legislations and condoned violence against African Americans by white supremacists (Civil Rights Act, 2016). Through the years, Congress was not able to pass a single civil rights legislations. It was until 1957 that it formulated a civil rights committee of the Justice Department partnered with a Commission on Civil Rights to scrutinize the discriminatory conditions in the country. Three years down the line, Congress agreed to a court-appointed referee whose responsibility was to help African Americans register to vote. In 1961, John F. Kennedy was elected president. Although the new president delayed showing his support for anti-discriminatory measures, riots and protests across the Southern regions of the country including Alabama where police used excessive force against nonviolent protesters compelled Kennedy to take action (Civil Rights Act, 2016).
The President sent a strong message to Congress in February 1963, requiring its immediate action in the legislation of the civil rights act. The President tabled the initial proposal of the law. His actions attracted intense political and personal conflicts. Oblivious of this, Kennedy remained sympathetic to the nations black citizens whose civil rights protests depicted the widening gap between the reality on the ground and American ideals (Kozak, & Ciboski, 1985). For Kennedy, African Americans deserved the equal rights they were demanding. He also understood that the highly publicized violence and discrimination against minority groups was an embarrassment of the country in internal forums. However, John F. Kennedys push for civil liberty was cut short when he was assassinated in November 1963. Although this changed the political dynamics in the country, his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson intensified the push for major civil rights legislations. Given his Southern roots and the fact that he was an accomplished politician who understood the Congress, Johnson stood at a better position than President Kennedy (Constitutional Rights Foundation, 2017). Through persistence, the bill passed through Congress amid numerous hostile amendments that were meant to sabotage it. Similarly, the proposers of the bill obtained two-thirds in the Senate after a seventy-five-day filibuster by the Southern and Border States Democrats. In the second day of July 1964, signed the bill into law and termed it to be a critical gain.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act was built on several provision that banned discriminatory behaviors and segregation in public facilities, education, housing, and employment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was created following the accession of the bill to law. The commission was tasked with ensuring fair practices were being adopted in hiring processes. The federal government Community Relations Services was also created under the new law and were responsible for assisting local communities with issues concerning civil rights (National Archives, 2016). The Civil Rights Act also gave power to the nations Office of Education to help communities struggling to achieve equality in public schools through financing their efforts (Khan Academy, 2017). However, the new legislation faced resistance in it early implementation stages. A good example of this is the opposition from George Wallace, a segregationist governor of Alabama. The Governor made a strong showing in the 1964 presidential primaries in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Maryland. His campaign strategy was primarily based on the anti-integration fustian and bewailed the loss of the countrys traditional values (Khan Academy, 2017).
Confusion also rose on whether the new law was applicable in the private sector. The confusion was generated following the action of several public venues to change into private statuses rather than desegregating and opening their doors to all citizens including the blacks. However, a Supreme Court ruling rendered those actions as illegal thereby safeguarding the constitutionally guaranteed rights of equal and discriminatory access as provided under the 1964 Civil Rights legislation (Khan Academy, 2017). Similarly, despite the fact that the new law contained articles aimed at strengthening the right to vote among African Americans and other minorities in the South, the provisions were significantly weak and did not deter election officials from upholding practices that prevented the southerners from enjoying this right. Additionally, in a bid to increase black voter registration, civil rights activists faced fierce hostility and opposition especially from the white supremacists in the south. The fact that these segregationists were positioned in powerful government position made the activists effort much more challenging. Based on these and the subsequent beatings, and murder of civil rights defenders, as well as the persistent public outcry and protest, the then President, Lyndon B. Johnson, found it necessary for additional civil rights legislations to be adopted. This includes the 1965 Voting Rights Act (Khan Academy, 2017).
Impact on Business and Society
Over a hundred years after the abolishment of slavery in America, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 brought with it significant changes in the nation. The Act essentially brought the fight for equality among all races in the country close to an end. The law outlawed discrimination against religious and racial minorities as well as women. After it had been signed into law, it was no longer legally or socially accepted to segregate work places, schools, and other public facilities (National Archives, 2016). The act also barred the unequal application electoral laws and banned discrimination based on religion, race, sex, or nationality. These changes were also felt in the economic sector as the 1964 legislation banned discrimination in the manner businesses offered employment. Take for example the textile industry. Prior to the passing of the law, the number of black employees at the South Carolina textile companies was at a meagre seven percent. In the subsequent years after the civil rights legislation was effected, this numbers rose to more than twenty percent in 1970 and a third of the workers ten years later (Wright, 2013). Although after immense international completion the textile industry declined, it served as the single most contributor to the significant increase in income among the black in the community. Not only did it contribute to the improvement of their living standards, but it also enabled African Americans to send their children to school who would later take advantage of employment opportunities elsewhere.
However, gains and transformation in other sectors of the economy did not easily come and often required protracted litigation. The good news was that the basis of legal and political mobilization was in most cases in civil rights legislation. In 1971 Supreme Court decision in favor of the complainant who was part of the long-serving segregated black laborers at Duke Power Co. the ruling effectively invalidated racial based testing and forced corporate employers to come up with new and nondiscriminatory systems of hiring, promotion, and transfer of employees (Wright, 2013). Additionally, based on the immediate impact of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act led to increased African American participation in the electoral process gradually over the next thirty years. The gradual increase in black participation eventually brought high political representation which in turn translated in tangible economic gains among the Southern blacks. This was indicated by improved access to public-sector employment, distribution of public social services, and racial equality in the manner government contracts were awarded.
After months of collaboration with Congress, President Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law. The law signaled a significant step towards achieving an equal society. It was the first legislation to prohibit discrimination in employment and businesses of public accommodation on the grounds of gender, race, ethnicity, or the nation of origin. The Act effectively laid grounds for further achievements in both corporate and social sectors including gay rights, women rights, and the rights of immigrants across the nation. Despite all this, the law was crippled with a number of loopholes through which white supremacists used legal maneuvers to circumvent the Act and continue the culture of discrimination. Additionally, as much as the law has helped in changing the face of the nations corporate world, the nature of discriminating is also changing. Future legislations should focus on issues such as diversification of the workforce and age discrimination.
Constitutional Rights Foundation. (2017). The Civil Rights Act of 1964. Retrieved from http://www.crf-usa.org/black-history-month/the-civil-rights-act-of-1964
Civil Rights Act. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/civil-rights-actKhan Academy. (2017). The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Retrieved from https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ap-us-history/period-8/apush-civil-rights-movement/a/the-civil-rights-act-of-1964-and-the-voting-rights-act-of-1965
Kozak, D. C., & Ciboski, K. N. (1985). A brief history of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The American Presidency, 12(1): 411-419.
National Archives. (2016). The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equality Employment Opportunity Commission. Retrieved from https://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/civil-rights-act
Wright, G. (2013). The stunning economic impact of the Civil Rights Movement. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2013-02-13/the-stunning-economic-impact-of-the-civil-rights-movement
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