Featured in Issues & Controversies in American History:
CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964: A Measure to Ensure Equality or a Violation of States’ Rights?
For much of American history, racial discrimination was legal in the United States, and many states, particularly in the South, mandated separate accommodations for whites and blacks. The U.S. Supreme Court outlawed segregation in public schools in 1954, but many other facilities open to the public, such as restaurants and hotels, could bar service to African Americans and others. Private companies could also discriminate when hiring or promoting workers. In the 1950s, the civil rights movement emerged with the goal of ending segregation and promoting equal opportunity for all Americans. In response, Congress debated the far-reaching Civil Rights Act of 1964 to outlaw discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Supporters of the Civil Rights Act argued that it would ensure equality for all Americans and create a more just society, but opponents argued that it would infringe on states’ rights and the freedom of private individuals to choose whom they could associate with and which customers they could serve.
Let your students get the facts and decide for themselves: Is the Civil Rights Act of 1964 a just and necessary means to combat racial discrimination in the South? Or is the act an unlawful federal intrusion on the rights of Southern states and their social traditions? Be sure to check out Issues & Controversies in American History’s clear and unbiased examination of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 this month.
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