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Tag: Civil Rights Act

Now On Display: The Civil Rights Act of 1964

Today’s post comes from David Steinbach, intern in the National Archives History Office.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr., others look on, 07/02/1964. (The Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library)

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr., others look on, 07/02/1964. (The Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library)

On July 2, 1964, with Martin Luther King, Jr., directly behind him, President Lyndon Johnson scrawled his signature on a document years in the making—the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark legislation.

The first and the signature pages of the act will be on display at the National Archives Rubenstein Gallery in Washington, DC, until September 17, 2014. These 50-year-old sheets of paper represent years of struggle and society’s journey toward justice.

The most comprehensive civil rights legislation since the Reconstruction era, the Civil Right Act finally gave the Federal Government the means to enforce the promises of the 13th,  14th, and 15th Amendments. The act prohibited discrimination in public places, allowed the integration of public facilities and schools, and forbade discrimination in employment.

But such a landmark congressional enactment was by no means achieved easily. Indeed, developments within the civil rights movement were critical in motivating the bill’s movement through Congress. The push for legislation accelerated in May 1963, when nightly news broadcasts displayed footage of Eugene “Bull” Connor cracking down on demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama.

In this atmosphere, President … [ Read all ]

They “Leaned In” and took action in federal courts

Happy Women’s History Month! Today’s blog post comes from Kristina Jarosik, education specialist at the National Archives at Chicago.

Recently, two powerful women in the Silicon Valley, (Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and author of Lean In: Women Work and the Will to Lead and Marissa Meyer, CEO of Yahoo) provided the media and the public the opportunity to re-examine the role of women in the workplace. These exchanges, the dawn of Women’s History Month, and the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act encouraged us to step back “historically” and to look in our stacks for stories of women fighting for equality in the workplace through the federal courts.

We discovered several cases. Alice Peurala’s is one.

As a single parent working night shifts at U.S. Steel’s South Works in southeast Chicago in the 1950s, Alice Peurala wanted a day job. She heard that product testers in the Metallurgical Division had this appealing schedule. But these positions were not posted, as others were, for bidding.

In 1967 (after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act), a male colleague that Alice had trained was moved up to be a product tester after only four years. Just before he started, she called the hiring director and inquired about being considered for one of these jobs. His response, “No, we don’t want any women on these jobs.”… [ Read all ]

January 18, 1964 – Martin Luther King, Jr. & LBJ

Martin Luther King, Jr. (3rd from left), with Roy Wilkins, James Foarmer, adn Whitney Young, met with President Lyndon Johnson in the Oval Office in January 1964. (LBJ Library)

Martin Luther King, Jr. (center), with Roy Wilkins, James Farmer, and Whitney Young, met with President Lyndon Johnson in the Oval Office on January 18, 1964. (LBJ Library)

Martin Luther King, Jr., would have been 82 on January 15, and yesterday we observed the national holiday in his honor.

The above photograph shows a January 18, 1964, White House meeting between four civil rights leaders—Roy Wilkins, James Farmer, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Whitney Young—and President Lyndon Johnson. A civil rights bill was stuck in the House Rules Committee, and the President was determined to get it moving.

Only five months before the photograph was taken, these same four men had spoken before nearly a quarter of a million people during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Martin Luther King, Jr., the final speaker on that day, inspired the crowd with his ringing declaration that “I have a dream.”

The House finally voted in February 1964 and sent the bill to the Senate. As the year progressed, LBJ’s legislative orchestrations, combined with actions by civil rights supporters on the streets, got the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. The President signed it on July 2, and King, Wilkins, Farmer, and Young were in the East Room of the White House with him. (The story of getting the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 through Congress is told in the Summer 2004 issue … [ Read all ]

Sex…and the Civil Rights Bill

Copy of HR 7152 showing amendments adding "sex" to the 1964 Civil Rights bill.

Copy of HR 7152 showing amendments adding "sex" to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. (Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, RG 233)

Forty-seven years ago this past Saturday, Martin Luther King, Jr., touched a nation with his inspiring words. Just six months later in February of 1964, one small but powerful word was added to the House version of the divisive Civil Rights Act.

Representative Howard Smith of Virginia sponsored an amendment to the bill—he added the word “sex” to the list of categories such as race and religion that the employers couldn’t consider when hiring someone. He thought the addition was so ludicrous it would kill the bill on the floor.

Smith’s track record on civil rights was clear: he protested Brown v. Board of Education, and in 1957 when another civil rights bill (this one on voting) had come before his rules committee, he had said, “The Southern people have never accepted the colored race as a race of people who had equal intelligence . . . as the white people of the South.”

But in 1964—whatever his intent for including the word, whether to torpedo a bill he opposed or even to try to gain some benefit from a bill he knew would pass—the word “sex” stuck around in this civil rights bill.

The bill cleared the House and Senate and later, when a conference committee suggested removing the word, committee … [ Read all ]