The Impact and Aftermath
of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Robert D. Loevy
The primary impact of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the almost immediate elimination of racial discrimination in places of public accommodation throughout the United States. Five months after Lyndon Johnson signed the 1963-64 civil rights bill into law, the Supreme Court ruled that the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution gave the Congress all the legal power it needed to integrate hotels, motels, restaurants, snack bars, swimming pools, and other public places. In the decision, Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, the high court defined the concept of commerce broadly, applying the new civil rights law to restaurants that received their food and supplies from out of state, even when their customers all came from within the state. 1
In addition to opening up public accommodations to African Americans and other minorities, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 instituted the hotly debated "cutoff" of U.S. Government funds to governmental programs that practiced discrimination. As the backers of this provision hoped, the need and desire for U.S. Government dollars inspired state and local governments throughout the nation, but particularly in the South, to integrate all their facilities and services. Congress subsequently used the cutoff extensively as a means of getting state governments to comply with congressional law, particularly when Congress passed legislation guaranteeing equal access to public facilities for women and the physically handicapped.