What is the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed in response to the Civil Rights Movement. Its provisions had been proposed in 1963, and was part of the agenda of John F. Kennedy, but it was not passed during that year. Kennedy, of course, was assassinated before it was passed. Essentially, the Act outlawed discrimination in public facilities, outlawing, in a word, the Jim Crow laws that had persisted in the South since the end of Reconstruction. Title II of the Act stated that:
all persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation ... without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.
As this passage indicates, though the context of the law was the African-American civil rights movement, it also outlawed other types of discrimination. Title IV empowered the Justice Department to rigorously enforce integration in public schools, which had, Brown v. Board of Education notwithstanding, not been achieved in many parts of the South. Additionally, the Act set up the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforced its mandate in Title VII that discrimination in hiring was illegal.