Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title IVThe Civil Rights Act of 1964 was one of the most important social reforms that improved the quality of life for millions of Americans. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a huge victory for the African American community and will forever impact the way they are treated in the United States. Title VII is one of the key characteristics of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII transformed the way of life for minorities by ensuring equal opportunities for jobs. In my essay, I will analyze the structural level, political linkage, governmental level, and the governmental action executed in inaugurating the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title VII.
The start of African Americans earning their freedom began in 1862, when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order that freed slaves in rebelling states. This order led to freed slaves migrating north and joining the Union Army to continue the fight for their civil liberties. In the wake of the Civil War, the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified making slavery illegal nationwide in the United States. However, southern states responded to this event by creating “black codes” that still placed barriers on the freedoms of emancipated slaves. As a result, the Northern Republicans formed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Fourteenth Amendment, declaring that anyone born in the United States regardless of their race, color, or previous condition were all considered citizens. During the Reconstruction Era, The Fifteenth Amendment prohibited male U.S. citizens from being denied their right to vote.
Even though these laws were put in place to protect some of the freedoms of blacks, southerners still found loopholes to disenfranchise African Americans. Due to the minimal protection of the Fifteenth Amendment, southerners were able to prevent African Americans from voting with poll taxes, literacy tests, and property requirements. After the Reconstruction Era ended in 1876, Southern Democrats continued to diminish the liberties of African Americans and developed Jim Crow Laws that enforced segregation in southern states.
African Americans were driven out to the North but still struggled for equal job opportunities. The “separate but equal” doctrine regarding racial segregation spread nationally after the Supreme Court’s decision in the Plessy v. Ferguson case. This decision contributed to the discrimination of African Americans in employment, education, housing, and violence. During World War II, many people questioned the United States about their position in the war, considering the fact that they didn’t even guarantee rights to their own citizens. Protests against racial discriminations in defense industries led President Roosevelt to put in effect the Executive Order 8802.
Roosevelt’s executive order prohibited discrimination in the national defense industry and established the first Equal Employment Opportunity agency, called the Fair Employment Practice Committee. In 1954, an NAACP lawyer, Thurgood Marshall, argued against the “separate but equal” laws during the Brown v. Board Of Education case.
The Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for blacks and whites to have separate public schools based on color. The results of this case angered white southerners which led them to create the Southern Manifesto in 1956. The Southern Manifesto protected state’s rights to refuse desegregation. African Americans continued to challenge segregation by using tactics such as civil disobedience, boycotts, and protests. In 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, which expanded the protections of citizens’ right to vote. In 1961 John F. Kennedy proposed Executive Order 10925, to prevent discrimination in the workplace and created the President’s Committee on Equal Employment (Aiken, et al.
) . 1963 was an important year for the Civil Rights Movement due to the crucial events that had occurred in Birmingham, Alabama. During a peaceful protest, police began assaulting men, women, and children protestors with their dogs and by aiming high pressured water hoses at them (Siemaszko). The police brutality, the March on Washington, and the Bombing in Birmingham that resulted in the death of four innocent girls, were major incidents that government could no longer try to ignore (www.
nps.gov).Following the outrageous events of blatant police brutality among civil rights protesters in Birmingham, Alabama, President Kennedy had no other choice but to propose a civil rights bill. On June 11, 1963, President Kennedy addressed the nation about the protests that had recently occurred concerning racial inequality.
Kennedy informed the US citizens that there was no place for racism in America and that he would demand Congress to act on this issue (eeoc.gov). The civil rights bill was officially presented to Congress on June 19, 1963. However, creating a bill for civil rights became a slow process because both the House Rules Committee and the Judiciary Committee in the Senate, were held by white Southern politicians who were opposed to establishing any type of civil rights act. Due to the disagreement amongst the members of the Senate, they made several attempts of using the filibuster to delay legislative procedures. In result, many African-Americans became frustrated because there were no changes being made to protect them from segregation.
During a political tour in Dallas, President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. Lyndon B. Johnson became the new president and promised to continue Kennedy’s civil rights agenda. In January 1964, President Johnson invited the four leaders of the largest civil rights organizations; Martin Luther King Jr., Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, and James Farmer, to the White House.
The purpose of the gathering was to ensure the civil rights activists that they had gained Johnson’s full support in strategizing a plan to achieve a stronger legislation (Karatzas). Johnson’s efforts to fight against racial discrimination against African- Americans far surpassed the efforts Kennedy had contributed. President Johnson’s previous experience in the Senate assisted him in convincing and manipulating the members of the Senate to pass the civil rights act. He made phone calls to legislators and either persuaded them or threatened them to pass the bill (www.crf-usa.org). President Johnson was well informed about the social injustices African-Americans faced everyday and was passionate about making a difference during his presidential term (Karatzas).
After being debated for twenty-two days by the House Judiciary Committee, Seven days by the Rules Committee, six days by the House, and 83 days by the Senate, government finally came to a decision that would change discrimination and racism in America forever (Hill). On June 2, 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson passed the civil rights bill that prohibited discrimination in public facilities and banned prejudiceness in employment, unions, schools, and voting registrars. The federal government became committed to ending discrimination and providing supplemental programs to aid those who were previously affected by the disadvantages prior to the civil rights bill. Although there was already a policy for nondiscrimination in employment, government didn’t implement any restraints or actual programs to protect employees from prejudice practices. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which passed after a 534 hour filibuster, was one of the most influential features of the bill. However, the EEOC had no enforcement powers during its first seven years of operation. The powers of the EEOC were very limited, they could only pacify complaints and refer cases for litigation to the Attorney General (Hill).
Title VII was amended in 1972 and enabled EEOC to file lawsuits under its own name (Sanders). People who felt discriminated in the workplace gained access to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commision, where they could file complaints and sue their employers for unequal treatment. During the EEOC’s first year being active they received nine thousand complaints (MacLean). In order for equal employment opportunities to be enforced, this required substantial changes to the practices of major businesses and labor unions. The EEOC is an important aspect of the civil rights bill because it gives discriminated employees the power to fight for their rights.
In comparison to life before the EEOC, employees didn’t have any resources to protect them and were too scared to file complaints about their employers. Not only did Title VII protect victims of racial and religious discrimination, but it also empowered American women to go out and find jobs (MacLean).For several generations in the United States, African Americans and other minorities experienced economic depression due to the discriminatory patterns involving employment.
America has socially progressed since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was effectuated and still continues to progress today. Title VII helped insure higher pay and job security that would otherwise not be guaranteed without the law. The EEOC has played a huge role in eliminating institutional racism in both the public and private sectors of the economy. This social reform reshaped American ideals/morals and contributed to the reinforcement of equal opportunity.