Civil Rights Act of 1964 (What was it? Who initiated it? When was it passed?)
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2, 1964. It stands as one of the most important legislative initiatives in the nation's history, legally prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion or national origin. While it would require further legislative measures to eliminate shortcomings in the initial bill, it represented a major milestone in the way discriminatory policies and practices would henceforth be viewed and adjudicated.
The Civil Rights Act was the culmination of a lengthy effort by many members of Congress and by President Johnson and its passage reflected not partisan differences between Republicans and Democrats but rather regional distinctions dating back to the antebellum period in American history. Northern members of Congress from both parties overwhelmingly supported its passage while Southern members from both parties just as overwhelmingly opposed.
While most of Congress strongly supported the legislation, it was President Johnson's commitment to its passage and his considerable skills as a parliamentarian that enabled its success. Johnson had intended that his domestic agenda define his presidency, and the Civil Rights Act certainly constituted a major political victory, but the war in Vietnam undermined his efforts at forcing through the broader program of social welfare reforms that was labeled "the Great Society."