Fifty years ago, in July 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. Through this landmark piece of legislation, the federal government sought, among other things, to dismantle abhorrent “Jim Crow” laws in the South which rendered African Americans second class citizens.
A strong minority of legislators in Congress fought bitterly to try to defeat the Civil Rights Act. They argued that the Civil Rights Act would unconstitutionally usurp state rights and impair individual liberty. Thanks, in part, to the work of civil rights activists like Dr. Martin Luther King and John Lewis, who helped the entire nation and its members of Congress to see the horrors of segregation and Jim Crow, enough members of Congress banded together to pass the law.
Interestingly, before the Civil Rights Act passed, opponents to the law added an amendment to bar sex discrimination in employment. This tactic backfired. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination, passed with not only landmark protections against race discrimination, religious discrimination, and national origin discrimination, but also with landmark protections against sex discrimination.