Congress and the
Civil Rights Act of 1964

There is another reason why we dare not temporize with the issue which is before us. It is essentially moral in character. It must be resolved. It will not go away. Its time has come.

Senate Minority Leader Everett M. Dirksen supporting the move to end debate on the Civil Rights bill,
June 10, 1964

In the 1950s and 1960s, a wave of protest aimed at ending discrimination and segregation against African Americans, especially in the South, brought civil rights to the forefront of national debate. Civil rights had its champions in Congress, but they had to work to surmount institutional impediments in the House and Senate to pass the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

House opposition to the Civil Rights bill took the form of keeping it bottled up in the House Rules Committee. In the Senate, opponents attempted to talk the bill to death in a filibuster. In early 1964 supporters overcame the Rules Committee obstacle by threatening to send the bill to the floor without committee approval. The Senate filibuster was overcome through the floor leadership of Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, the support of President Lyndon Johnson, and the efforts of Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois, in convincing Republicans to support the bill.

Signed into law, on July 2, 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed segregation in businesses such as theaters, restaurants, and hotels. It banned discriminatory practices in employment and ended segregation in public places such as swimming pools, libraries, and public schools.