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The Civil Rights Act of 1964 – What it Meant

April 13, 2014
Plain English Version
Drinking fountain for colored.

Drinking fountain for colored.

Fifty years ago black Americans were called “colored people.” The South had a system called “Jim Crow.” It meant that black people were not treated equally. They were treated as second-class citizens. More than two-thirds of the people living in America today were not  alive fifty years ago. How blacks were treated is unimaginable to them.

Waiting room for colored

Waiting room for colored

This culture of a slave society remained well into the twentieth-century. Legal segregation ended when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Seating for colored.

Seating for colored.

The modern civil rights movement is said to have started in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. A black woman named Rosa Parks refused to take a seat in the back of the bus in which she was riding. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. helped start a boycott of the Montgomery, Alabama bus system. The March on Washington took place in August 1963. It was an historic civil rights event. The rest, as they say, is history.

No colored allowed in theater.

No colored allowed in theater.

President Johnson was a Southerner. He became president when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963. He used the memory of President Kennedy to push for profound changes in civil rights law. For example, the Civil Rights Act said most hotels; restaurants and places of “public accommodation” could no longer discriminate against black people. The Voting Rights Act passed in 1966.

Today, prejudice is still a challenge. Recently, four living presidents went to the LBJ library to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act. They pointed out how far the country has come since 1964. They emphasized, however, how much  we still have to do.

No one can disagree with how far we have come and how far we have to go.

The anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a moment to remember. It is when the modern history of America began.

Source: The Wall Street Journal                                                                               April 10, 2014

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