What factors contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965?

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were very important accomplishments of the civil rights movement. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was something that had been proposed by President Kennedy prior to his death in 1963. However, President Kennedy didn’t help many people get elected to office in 1960, and they weren’t willing to stick their neck out on what was considered to be a very controversial bill at that time. When President Kennedy was assassinated, this changed the dynamics for this bill.

President Johnson used the assassination of President Kennedy to help get support for this bill. He told Congress the passage of this bill was a way to honor the legacy of the fallen leader. President Johnson knew President Kennedy wanted this bill passed. President Johnson had helped other elected officials in the past with programs they had wanted, and he was able to call in some favors to get this bill passed.

The nonviolent protests also helped bring about the passage of this bill. People were able to watch on television how nonviolent protesters were treated in Birmingham in 1963. They were able to see how the nine kids that tried to attend high school at Central High School in Little Rock were being treated. These events helped to sway public opinion in favor of passing this law.

The Voting Rights Act was also passed as a result of how the police treated the marchers who were protesting the lack of African-American registered voters. When people watched on television, they saw the brutal methods that the police used against the nonviolent marchers who were attempting to march from Selma to Montgomery. President Johnson was also infuriated. This led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Both of these laws were major accomplishments for those who believed change could occur through the use of nonviolent methods.