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Civil Rights Act of (1964)

Civil Rights Act Of 1964

After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced his determination to pass a strong civil rights act that would end racial discrimination in employment, education, and other spheres of life. Deputy Attorney General Nicholas D. Katzenbach, Johnson's congressional liaison, worked with Senator Hubert H. Humphrey (D.-Minn.) and Senate minority leader Everett M. Dirksen (R.-Ill.) to achieve a compromise that would assure final passage. The result was the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Title I of the act guarantees equal voting rights by removing registration requirements and procedures biased against minorities and the underprivileged. Title II prohibits segregation or discrimination in places of public accommodation involved in interstate commerce. Title VII bans discrimination by trade unions, schools, and employers involved in interstate commerce or doing business with the federal government. This section also applies to discrimination on the basis of sex and established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to enforce these provisions. The act also calls for the desegregation of public schools (title IV), broadens the duties of the Civil Rights Commission (title V), and assures nondiscrimination in the distribution of funds under federally assisted programs (title VI).

Initially, the most controversial provision was title II. Because the 1883 Civil Rights cases held that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot reach private discrimination in public accommodations, Congress based title II on the Constitution's Commerce Clause, which gives Congress the authority to regulate interstate commerce. In Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, 379 U.S. 241, 85 S. Ct. 348, 13 L. Ed. 2d 258 (1964), the Supreme Court upheld title II as a constitutional application of the Commerce Clause.

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