Civil Rights Act: 50 years ago today

By Lacey Peterson / The Union Democrat

Today is the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act, widely considered the most important civil rights legislation since Reconstruction.

The 1964 act prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

Following that law, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed landmark civil rights bills including the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

The Civil Rights Act was submitted to the House of Representatives in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy, five months before he was assassinated.

Provisions of the act barred unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation of public accommodations, like lunch counters and water fountains.

The provisions also prohibited state and municipal governments from denying people access to public facilities, encouraged the desegregation of public schools and authorized the U.S. Attorney General to file lawsuits to enforce it.

The act affected people across the United States, including many who now live in the Mother Lode.

For one Columbia woman, it allowed her to find gainful employment and support her family. For a Jamestown woman, it outlawed the discrimination and segregation she experienced as a black person in Texas.

For the full stories, see the July 2, 2014, edition of The Union Democrat.

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