In case you missed it, today marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act (CRA). President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the landmark law on July 2, 1964 (pictured above).
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces Title VII of the CRA, which prohibits employment discrimination in the public and private sectors (in addition to other civil rights statutes). Several federal agencies enforce other parts of the CRA.
“Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This comprehensive civil rights legislation grew out of decades of resistance and opposition to the segregation and discrimination that restricted opportunities and access for countless men, women and children in the United States in many different aspects of their lives.
The law banned discrimination in public accommodations – including hotels, restaurants and food service, retail establishments, parks and recreational facilities and transportation – and in all programs and activities funded by the federal government. It was, however, Title VII of the legislation that answered the call for equal opportunity in the nation’s workplaces.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex and also made it illegal to retaliate against those who sought relief or assisted others in their exercise of rights secured by the law. Title VII created the EEOC, and on July 2, 1965, one year after the law was signed, the agency opened its doors.
The EEOC is therefore utilizing the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act (CRA) of 1964 and the upcoming 50th Anniversary of our agency to educate the public about the laws we enforce.”
President Lyndon B. Johnson said the following on the evening he signed the CRA:
“[O]ur generation of Americans has been called on to continue the unending search for justice within our own borders. We believe that all men are created equal. Yet many are denied equal treatment. We believe that all men have certain unalienable rights. Yet many Americans do not enjoy those rights. We believe that all men are entitled to the blessings of liberty. Yet millions are being deprived of those blessings-not because of their own failures, but because of the color of their skin. … But it cannot continue. Our Constitution, the foundation of our Republic, forbids it. The principles of our freedom forbid it. Morality forbids it. And the law I will sign tonight forbids it.”
EEOC Chair Berrien said of President Johnson’s remarks:
“A half-century later, those words still ring true. Nevertheless, the goals of Title VII and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in its entirety are not yet achieved, and the unalienable rights and blessings of liberty promised in the nation’s founding documents, which we also celebrate this week in July, are still elusive for too many people.
The EEOC receives nearly 100,000 charges of discrimination each year, with retaliation and racial discrimination remaining our greatest challenges. Moreover, too many women are paid less or shut-out of job opportunities; too many people are forced to choose between their jobs and religious beliefs; too many workers are segregated on the basis of national origin; too many persons with disabilities are excluded from jobs they are qualified to hold; too many older workers are screened out of job opportunities because of their age; and too many LGBT employees suffer harassment in the workplace based upon stereotypes. Therefore, this generation — as was the generation before it — is still called upon to continue the unending search for justice.”
*** Additional information about the EEOC is available on its website. Also, check out the following hashtag on Twitter #CRA50.