The Civil Rights battles in rare historical pictures, 1964


After World War II, there was increased pressure for minorities to recognize, challenge and change inequalities. One of the most notable challenges to the status quo was the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case of Brown v. Topeka, Kansas's Board of Education that questioned the notion of "separate but equal" in public education.

The Court found that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal" and in violation of the 14th Amendment. The decision polarized Americans, spurred debate and served as a catalyst to encourage federal action to protect civil rights.

Every year, from 1945 to 1957, Congress considered the Civil Rights Bill and failed to pass it. Congress eventually passed limited Civil Rights Acts in 1957 and 1960, but they offered only moderate benefits.

As a result of the 1957 Act, the United States Civil Rights Commission was formed to investigate, report on, and make recommendations to the President on civil rights issues.

Sit-ins, boycotts, freedom rides, the establishment of organizations such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, local demands for inclusion in the political process, were all in response to increased legislative activity during the 1950s and 1960s. at the beginning of the decade.

1963 was a pivotal year for the civil rights movement. Social pressure continued to build with events such as the Birmingham Campaign, televised clashes between peaceful protesters and officers, the murders of civil rights activists Medgar Evers and William L. Moore, the March on Washington, and the bombings that killed four young girls. 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. There was no turning back. Civil rights were firmly on the national agenda and the federal government was forced to respond.

In response to the report of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, President John F. Kennedy, in a nationally televised address, proposed the Civil Rights Act of 1963.

A week after his speech, Kennedy presented a bill to Congress addressing civil rights. He urged African American leaders to exercise caution when demonstrating because new violence could put potential supporters at risk.

Kennedy met with businessmen, religious leaders, labor officials and other groups such as the Corps and the NAACP, while behind the scenes negotiating to build bipartisan support and compromise on controversial topics.

After Kennedy's assassination in November 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. and newly elected President Lyndon B. The Johnsons both continued to press for the bill to be passed – as King noted in a January 1964 newspaper column, the legislation would "feel the intense attention" of black interest... this past summer at the Great March in Washington Became the order of the day. Blacks and their white compatriots will not be denied for self-respect and human dignity.

The House of Representatives debated the civil rights bill for nine days, rejecting nearly 100 amendments designed to undermine the bill. It passed the House on February 10, 1964, after 70 days of public hearing, the presence of 275 witnesses and 5,792 pages of published testimony.

The real fight waited in the Senate, however, where concerns focused on the bill's expansion of federal powers and its potential to anger constituents who retaliated in the voting booth. Opponents began the longest filming in US history, which lasted 57 days and brought the Senate to a virtual standstill.

Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirkson nurtured the bill through settlement discussions and ended the filibuster. Dirkson's settlement bill passed the Senate after 83 days of debate, which filled 3,000 pages in Congressional records. The House moved quickly to approve the Senate bill.

Within hours of its passage on July 2, 1964, in the presence of President Lyndon B. Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Height, Roy Wilkins, John Lewis and other civil rights leaders, announcing the bill once more signed into law. Because discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin was illegal in the United States for any reason.

Protests were held in cafes, restaurants and hotels protesting discriminatory service and recruitment practices. Small-town all-white schools needed to be integrated, and large-town schools began a massive effort to integrate by bus. Separatists angered by the Civil Rights Act also took to the streets, often attacking African American demonstrations in the South.

Decades of police brutality, several incidents in the summer of 1964 led to a series of racially motivated riots in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Jersey City.

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