President signed Civil Rights Act on this day in 1964: Why the Act was so important and what we can do today


U.S. President Lyndon Johnson passes out some of the 72 pens he used to sign the civil rights bill in Washington D.C. on July 2, 1964.

On this day in 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. The law ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Following the Civil War, the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery and the Fourteenth Amendment made former slaves citizens. The Fifteenth Amendment then gave all people the right to vote regardless of race. However, it allowed states to determine the specific qualifications for suffrage.

In the following decades, Southern state legislatures used literacy tests, poll taxes, and other discriminatory measures to disenfranchise a majority of Black voters. White-dominated state legislatures were then able to consolidate control and establish Jim Crow laws, a system of segregation that remained in place for nearly a century.

The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s led to the Civil Rights Act. The following year, President Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act, which banned literacy tests and other methods used to disenfranchise Black voters. In 1966, the US Supreme Court ruled in Harper v. Virginia Board of Education that poll taxes (which the Twenty-fourth Amendment had eliminated for federal elections in 1964) were unconstitutional for state and local elections as well.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called the Civil Rights Act of 1964 nothing less than a “second emancipation.” But, as our nation has learned following the horrific death of George Floyd, much remains to be done.

Why the Act was so important and what we can do today

The Bible consistently and strongly condemns racism in all its forms. Paul struck down the racial and social barriers of his day when he proclaimed: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and…

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