Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Equal treatment of all Americans, regardless of race, was a major debate for decades in the U.S. Congress. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy urged Congress to take action. Passage of the act was not easy. We’ll be exploring some of the key moments for the Civil Rights Act throughout the day.
The engrossing copy of H.R. 7152 shows the final text of the bill as passed (290 votes in favor to 130 votes against) by the House on February 10, 1964. Included in this excerpt are several amendments to the bill, most of which relate to the addition of gender to the categories in the bill that prohibited discrimination.
Excerpt of H.R. 7152 with Amendments, 1964, Records of the U.S House of Representatives (NAID 6037151)
President John F. Kennedy signs the Equal Pay Act of 1963:
Today in history, President Kennedy signed the 1963 Equal Pay Act, which aimed to reduce income disparity between the sexes. 6/10/63.
Photo: President John F. Kennedy delivers remarks after signing the Equal Pay Act in the Oval Office of the White House, Washington, D.C. Standing (L-R): Representative Elizabeth Kee (West Virginia); Representative Edith Green (Oregon); Representative Edna Kelly (New York); Representative Catherine May (Washington); Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson; Director of United Automobile Workers (UAW) Women’s Department, Caroline Davis; Senator Maurine Neuberger of Oregon (in back); President of the National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs (NFBPWC), Dr. Minnie Miles; Director of the Department of Legislation for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), Andrew Biemiller (in back); Representative Leonor K. Sullivan (Missouri); Executive Director of the National Council of Catholic Women (NCCW), Margaret Mealey; Representative Martha W. Griffiths (Michigan); Representative Julia Butler Hansen (Washington); Secretary of Labor, Willard Wirtz.
-from the JFK Library
“WHEREAS a Governmental Commission should be charged with the responsibility for developing recommendations for overcoming discrimination in government and private employment on the basis of sex and for developing recommendations for services which will enable women to continue their role as wives and mothers while making a maximum contribution to the world around them…”
Executive Order 10980 dated December 14, 1961, in which President John F. Kennedy establishes the President’s Commission on the Status of Women., 12/16/1961
The President’s Commission on the Status of Women ran until October 1963 when it issued its final report. President Kennedy appointed former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt as the first chair of the commission, serving until her death in 1962.
Equal Rights Amendment
President Jimmy Carter signs the legislation proposing the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) before it was sent to the states for ratification in 1978. The Equal Rights Amendment was supported by those who believed that women did not have equal status to men in the United States and who hoped to force change. The ERA failed to gain ratification by the required number of states and therefore was not made into law.
Jimmy Carter signs House of Representative Resolution for Equal Rights Amendment., 10/20/1978
…it is essential that there be maintained in the armed services of the United States the highest standards of democracy, with equality of treatment and opportunity for all those who serve in our country’s defense..
On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed this executive order establishing the President’s Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, committing the government to integrating the segregated military.
July 2 - The Civil Rights Act of 1964
This act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 2, 1964, prohibited discrimination in public places, provided for the integration of schools and other public facilities, and made employment discrimination illegal. This document was the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction.
June 25 - Executive Order 8802: Prohibition of Discrimination in the Defense Industry
In June of 1941, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802, banning discriminatory employment practices by Federal agencies and all unions and companies engaged in war-related work. The order also established the Fair Employment Practices Commission to enforce the new policy.