The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was described at the time of its enactment as the most significant piece of legislation to be passed by the U.S. Congress in the twentieth century. This titanic legislative struggle produced the longest continuous debate ever held in the U.S. Senate. The resulting legislation eliminated virtually overnight legal racial segregation, particularly in the American South, where public separation of black Americans from white Americans had long been codified in state laws.
A number of those who participated in congressional enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 clearly understood the great historical significance of what they were doing. Joseph L. Rauh, Jr., one of the chief lobbyists supporting the bill, wrote a long magazine article (never accepted for publication) analyzing the various legislative strategies employed to try to get the bill passed. U.S. Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, the Democratic floor leader for the bill in the Senate, dictated a personal recollection of his all-important role. John G. Stewart, the chief legislative assistant to Senator Humphrey, dictated a long series of notes candidly reporting the daily triumphs and failures as the Senate slowly but surely made up its collective mind on an issue of searing national importance.
John G. Stewart also wrote a Ph.D dissertation ( University of Chicago, 1968) on the general subject of Senate leadership and civil rights. The latter portion of Stewart's dissertation contained an in-depth analysis of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Stewart completed his dissertation four years after the new civil rights law was enacted. He thus was able to bring added research and timely reflection to the subject.