The Civil Rights Act of 1964: The Passage of the Law That Ended Racial Segregation

By Robert D. Loevy; Hubert H. Humphrey et al. | Go to book overview

It has been argued that Martin Luther King, Jr., and his associates had an unspoken strategy of using nonviolent demonstrations to deliberately provoke attacks from violence- prone white southern officials and white segregationist mobs. It was well known to King and his associates, so the argument goes, that it was the opposition white violence that would attract widespread and sympathetic media coverage of their activities.

Whether or not King and his associates had such an unspoken strategy, their efforts resulted in the media coverage they needed. The civil rights movement thus became one of the most publicized events in United States history. It set the stage for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to be one of the most extensively publicized legislative battles in United States history.

In June of 1963, following particularly violent demonstrations and counter-demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama, President Kennedy sent a very strong civil rights bill to Congress designed to end all racial segregation in places of public accommodation (hotels, motels, restaurants, etc.). 42 Due to the awesome power of the southern Democrats, particularly in the Senate, a major civil rights bill had not been enacted in Congress since the aftermath of the Civil War. A great legislative showdown was about to begin. 43


NOTES
1.
For discussion of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, with selections from congressional debates on these amendments, see Bernard Schwartz, Statutory History of the United States: Civil Rights ( New York: Chelsea House, 1970), Part I, pp. 3-439.
2.
For discussion with selections from congressional debates on the various civil rights acts of the 1870s, see Schwartz, Statutory History of the United States: Civil Rights, Part I, pp. 443-799.

-42-

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