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Ustawa o prawach obywatelskich roku 1964 i Ustawa o prawach wyborczych roku 1965

Zapoznaj się z ustawami o prawach obywatelskich, które zdelegalizowały dyskryminację związaną z miejscami pracy, edukacją, obiektami publicznymi i prawami wyborczymi.


  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the most comprehensive civil rights legislation ever enacted by Congress. It contained extensive measures to dismantle Jim Crow segregation and combat racial discrimination.
  • The Voting Rights Act of 1965 removed barriers to black enfranchisement in the South, banning poll taxes, literacy tests, and other measures that effectively prevented African Americans from voting.
  • Segregationists attempted to prevent the implementation of federal civil rights legislation at the local level.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964

After years of activist lobbying in favor of comprehensive civil rights legislation, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted in June 1964. Though President John F. Kennedy had sent the civil rights bill to Congress in 1963, before the March on Washington, the bill had stalled in the Judiciary Committee due to the dilatory tactics of Southern segregationist senators such as James Eastland, a Democrat from Mississippi.1 After the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963, his successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson, gave top priority to the passage of the bill.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 contained provisions barring discrimination and segregation in education, public facilities, jobs, and housing. It created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to ensure fair hiring practices, and established a federal Community Relations Service to assist local communities with civil rights issues. The bill also authorized the US Office of Education to distribute financial aid to communities struggling to desegregate public schools.2
After a coalition of religious groups, labor unions, and civil rights organizations mounted an intense grassroots effort to lobby support for the bill, the Senate finally passed it on June 11, by a vote of 73 to 27.

Popular resistance to civil rights legislation

The period following the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 witnessed resistance to the implementation of its measures. George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama, made a strong showing in the 1964 presidential primaries in Indiana, Maryland, and Wisconsin. His campaign relied heavily on anti-integration rhetoric and bemoaned the loss of “traditional” American values, prefiguring the rise of the new social conservatism.3
There was also some confusion about whether the provisions of the act applied to the private sector. Some public venues attempted to transform themselves into private clubs rather than desegregate and open their doors to African Americans. The Supreme Court declared such actions illegal, thereby upholding the constitutionality of the equal access provisions of the Civil Rights Act.4
Though the Civil Rights Act of 1964 included provisions to strengthen the voting rights of African Americans in the South, these measures were relatively weak and did not prevent states and election officials from practices that effectively continued to deny southern blacks the vote. Moreover, in their attempts to expand black voter registration, civil rights activists met with the fierce opposition and hostility of Southern white segregationists, many of whom were entrenched in positions of authority.
Civil rights activists marching from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in March 1965.
The vicious beatings and murders of civil rights workers after the passage of the Civil Rights Act radicalized some black activists, who became skeptical of nonviolent, integrationist tactics and began to adopt a more radical approach. On March 7, 1965, six hundred activists set out on a march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery to peacefully protest the continued violations of African Americans’ civil rights. When they reached the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River, hundreds of deputies and state troopers attacked them with tear gas, nightsticks, and electric cattle prods. The event, which the press dubbed “Bloody Sunday,” was broadcast over television and splashed across the front pages of newspapers and magazines, stunning and horrifying the American public. Bloody Sunday galvanized civil rights activists, who converged on Selma to demand federal intervention and express solidarity with the marchers. President Johnson quickly became convinced that additional civil rights legislation was necessary.5

The Voting Rights Act of 1965

A week after Bloody Sunday, on March 15, 1965, President Johnson delivered a nationwide address in which he declared that “all Americans must have the privileges of citizenship regardless of race.”
Johnson informed the nation that he was sending a new voting rights bill to Congress, and he urged Congress to vote the bill into law. Congress complied, and President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on August 6, 1965.6
President Lyndon Johnson shakes hands with civil rights activists, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., after signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Image courtesy the LBJ Presidential Library.
The bill outlawed poll taxes, literacy tests, and other practices that had effectively prevented southern blacks from voting. It authorized the US attorney general to send federal officials to the South to register black voters in the event that local registrars did not comply with the law, and it also authorized the federal government to supervise elections in districts that had disfranchised African Americans. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 transformed patterns of political power in the South. By the middle of 1966, over half a million Southern blacks had registered to vote, and by 1968, almost four hundred black people had been elected to office.
As African Americans joined the Democratic Party, many white southerners began to defect to the Republicans. (Richard Nixon’s “Southern strategy,” designed to shift white Southerners to the Republican Party, accelerated this trend.) With African Americans voting en masse, some Southern Democrats, like George Wallace, began to shed their segregationist rhetoric and attempt to appeal to black voters. At the federal level, President Johnson appointed the first black cabinet member, Robert C. Weaver, as head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and in 1967 appointed Thurgood Marshall as the first African American justice of the Supreme Court.7

Jak uważasz?

Which provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 do you think were the most important? Why?
How do you think the events of Bloody Sunday affected the Voting Rights Act?
What do you think Lyndon Johnson meant when he said that 'There is no Negro problem . . . There is only an American problem?"

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