July 2, 1964: Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act
Depending on your background in the early ’60s, living in America wasn’t all that great. Racial segregation was prominent in schools, and women were often turned down for jobs. One President decided to make things much better for everyone living in this country.
Giving it an update
In 1963, John F. Kennedy brought an updated version of the Civil Rights Act to the table. With this act, no one would be discriminated against based on race, color, sex, religion, or national origin. As expected, certain individuals had a problem with letting go of their discriminatory behavior. While many in the government approved the act, one person had issues with it. Democratic Representative Howard W. Smith was a strong opposer towards the Civil Rights Act of 1957. When the updated bill came his way, he simply tossed it on the sideline.
A change of position
Unfortunately, Kennedy was unable to be there to see if the act was passed or not. On November 22, 1963, he was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. The death of an active President can hit hard when it comes to their goals for the country. Will the next person follow through with their plans or will they change them? Fortunately, Lyndon Johnson was looking towards a better America like Kennedy. One thing that he was trying to take care of was that Civil Rights Act simply lying around. In a room of legislators, Johnson stated, “No memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy’s memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long.”
Getting it passed
Smith was still in the way of having this bill sent to the Senate. To take it from him, Johnson delivered a petition to release it from his grasp. Since he knew he would get crushed by the petition, Smith relinquished the bill. Johnson was finally able to have this sent for debate on March 30, 1964. Following some back and forth talk, the Senate made their choice on June 19, 1964. With a vote of 73–27, the bill was passed. On July 2, 1964, Johnson was able to make Kennedy’s dream a reality by signing the bill. “The Civil Rights Act of 1964 created modern America, the things we take for granted today: people in restaurants and hotels and motels and transportation enjoying it regardless of race; the things my children take absolutely for granted,” author Todd Purdum told NPR. Upon that signing, America started to feel a bit more like the land of the free.