Civil Rights Act (United States) (1964)


The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal to discriminate in employment or the use of public facilities on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, or national origin. It also outlawed poll taxes and arbitrary literacy tests that had traditionally been used to exclude African Americans and other minorities from voting. The act gave the attorney general broad powers to bring legal suit against violators who continued to practice segregation. Finally, the act provided for creation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to assist in assuring fairness in employment practices.
Though the Civil Rights Act marked the legislative high point of the Civil Rights movement led by African Americans, its provisions were equally applicable to immigrants. A changing social consciousness based on the justice of the Civil Rights movement and the imperatives of the cold war helped pave the way for the nonracially based Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. As Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy observed to Congress in 1964, except in immigration, “Everywhere else in our national life, we have eliminated discrimination based on national origins.”

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