The Civil Rights Act of 1964

Imagine a life where you cannot be free and express who you are due to the pigment of your skin. A detail of yourself that you had no control of, defines your future. Throughout the 1950s and 60s, many political movements and debates were taking place in America, however; there is one that still affects the U.S. and our learning today.

The Civil Rights Movement of the mid-1900’s expressed much concern as African Americans were treated as working machines rather than normal independent citizens. Although the U.S. had established the 13th amendment, which had freed the slaves after the Civil War, the south still did not cooperate. The Jim Crow Laws were their way of continuing with the unfairness of the colored despite the new amendments (“The Civil Rights Movement,” par. 2). These laws allowed for the whites to put restrictions on black American rights. The restrictions included: work eligibility, public segregation, and the inability to vote. For the first 100 years, no one dared to violate the laws due to the likelihood of being met by violence or death.

The Civil Rights Movement finally began when a woman named Rosa Parks refused to obey the segregation laws by not giving up her seat on a bus to a white person (“The Civil Rights Movement,” par. 4). This famous event inspired other colored Americans to act on their unfair rights. It took almost a decade more for the Jim Crow laws to demolish and rebuild into a new beginning.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 impacted America by altering school segregation, work eligibility, and political rights. To begin the new change in lifestyle for the colored Americas, they had to push their way to justice. Anyone who was not white became segregated from everyone else. Silent and non-violent protests became the movement’s biggest and most impactful way of spreading their concern. Dr. Martin Luther King Junior and many other leaders conveyed fierce compassion not only about getting justice but about receiving it with no violence on their part. Despite the horrific events and torture that the city officers gave to the protestors, they remained non-violent. After many protests, walks, speeches and terrible backlash due to it all, the president finally signed the most impactful Act for the colored Americans.

According to A&E Television, History, The Civil Rights Act “banned employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin” (“The Civil Rights Act of 1964,” par.1). Because of this Act, the U.S. finally gave colored citizens the complete non-limited rights that belonged to them from the beginning. They finally overcame the unfair hard labor, prison sentences, and even details as small as required seating away from the whites (“Jim Crow Laws,” par. 1). Because Lyndon B. Johnson continued with President John F. Kennedy’s duty, lives have been forever changed (“Civil Rights Act of 1964,” par.1). Although The Civil Rights Act should have prohibited segregation right away, some educational centers took longer than others to alter their ways and integrate. When schools had to allow blacks and other colored children in, the whites were not in cooperation. Ruby Bridges is a great example of this claim. Bridges was the “first African-American child to integrate a white Southern elementary school on November 14, 1960,” according to the Ruby Bridges biography published by A&E Television Networks (Biography.com Editors sec.1).

Although this was an accomplishment for the colored Americans, it was a very dangerous experience for people like Ruby. Because she could enter the building and attend class, parents pulled her classmates from the school. Bridges attended school every day, surrounded by marshals for protection as they walked through an angry mob, to be the only student there (Bridges 18). With the Little Rock Nine in Little Rock, Arkansas needing special protection due to the “separate but equal” education ending, Ruby was no different. Years after the first school integration in Little Rock, the whites were still not cooperative.

Stated by Ruby Bridges herself in her book “Through My Eyes,” Ruby was unaware of why there was a mob of angry people screaming at her as she walked in. Her only initial concern for that day was that she would not be attending school with her friends anymore (Bridges 14). Bridges learned that they were protests against integration. Ruby said that she tried not to pay attention to people who said mean things. One woman screamed, “I’m going to poison you. I’ll find a way” (Bridges 22). An innocent girl who could not harm them was seen as a huge threat to those protestors. Bridges explained that students returned to school. The white parents okay with integration had difficulty getting their child to school without getting hate themselves. They walked their children into the school despite the taunting mob (Bridges 26). More families began this brave step towards integration, but the protests did not stop. According to Bridges, there was trouble all around the city. “People threw rocks and bricks at passing cars. Some even tossed flaming bottles of gasoline.” Due to this, hospital rooms filled up. They set crosses on fire in front of African-American houses by the Klu Klux Klan hoping to scare them away (Bridges 32). The horrible events that occurred after the first few school integrations will always be remembered by children like Ruby. Because of the Civil Rights Act, students can now attend any school despite their race, gender, religion, or any other possible discriminations. Ruby Bridges was a brave girl who helped American schools settle into integration which now allows us to have our diverse education.

Furthermore, work eligibility was also affected by the The Civil Rights Act. According to the National Archives, the act “forbade discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race in hiring, promoting, and firing” (Simmons par.1) They saw it as unlawful to refuse to hire someone due to their race. This detail has not always been the case. Because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC, lead the fight against workplace discrimination. “EEOC has worked tirelessly to eliminate discrimination from America’s workplaces since its creation,” stated by the EEOC website. The commission did everything they could to stop discrimination in the workforce for America (“Pre 1965: Events Leading to the Creation of EEOC,” par. 9). Jobs for all citizens has created a diverse environment and various equal opportunities. Before they passed the Act, employers could control more of what “kind” of people they would hire. For example, an employer cannot decide that they will only hire men because they are male. This would violate the Civil Rights Act and the EEOC’s purpose. Allowing all people an equal shot at a job is important to these laws. Whether they qualify due to experience or legal qualifications is then put up for the employer’s decision. In the 1940s and 50s when black discrimination was common, they only gave blacks dirty, unhealthy, and heavy duty jobs. They rarely paid much and were harmful. The whites felt that blacks could not do higher paying jobs (Jones par. 3).

According to The American Prospect’s, Black Workers Remember, “There was an unwritten law that black people couldn’t work high-skilled jobs, couldn’t have no top jobs operating no machine” (Jones par. 5). The Jim Crow principles did not favor African-Americans, meaning that their work eligibility was low. Due to the changes of law since the mid-1900’s, blacks no longer have to suffer a consequence that they had no control of. Now, anyone can apply for a job without being worried about if they are “good enough” due to race.

Most importantly, the lack of political rights was a huge barrier for most African-American lives. They based their treatment on the laws that were in place. For example, those in power like Mayor Joseph Smitherman in Selma, Alabama could control and continue brutal force on segregation. Because the colored citizens could not vote, they had no influence on who took office. Smitherman could order state troopers to halt any marches that began. The famous Edmund Pettus Bridge March led by Dr. Martin Luther King Junior was also known as “Bloody Sunday” (Martin par. 4). State officials voted in by white only, fought against the non-violent protesters. As blacks and other minorities spread awareness of their concern, a brutal force met them. Although this seemed like a huge loop that they would never get out of, this event became televised for the rest of the U.S. to see. Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (Martin par. 4).

This was addressed after The Civil Rights Act of 1964, however; the changes that were not taking place despite the new law heavily influenced the colored. For example, whites would delay voting for colored people by giving them assessments that they obviously could not pass due to lack of education. They took every opportunity available to suspend the voice of black Americans. The Voting Rights Act was set to prevent this from continuing. It put a more specific stop to discrimination. Without The Civil Rights Act of 1964, it may have not been as easy to catch the attention of other Americans and leaders whom would later sign the next Act. Now, people of any color, sex, religion, etc., may vote. Both Acts protect these rights and prevent any recurrence. Ultimately, The Civil Rights Act of 1964 played a huge role in American rights.

The Civil Rights Movement changed the lives of not only the colored citizens, but all people in the U.S. Today, integration in public places is a social norm. Americans, mostly, do not have trouble with treating everyone equally, however; there are still some who disagree with desegregation. Racism can still occur, but thanks to the new Act, penalizing due to race, sex, or national origin is no longer allowed. American workforce, public schools, and voting rights are now open to any citizen of the United States. This was the new beginning.