The Civil Rights Act 1964

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The Civil Rights Act 1964


The issue of racial inequality has bred controversy in the United States, and this began in the ear of slave trade and slavery in the South whereby white farmers used the Black captives as the source of labor in their farms for little or no pay. However, even after the American Civil War brought slavery to a halt, the notion of racial inferiority of the population never ended. The Blacks, despite having a free status, faced discrimination in employment, education, transport, health, and trade among others and they had no voting rights. These problems necessitated a solution and, thus, the Blacks sought to emancipate themselves through non-violent actions. This research aims to conduct a library study to examine the Civil Rights Act 1964. The paper will discuss its definition, history regarding the origin and the presidency, the impacts on the Blacks and Whites respectively, the impact on business, associated penalties, as well as the impact on the local and international spheres.

Keywords: Civil Rights Act, history, changes, compliance


The Civil Rights Act 1964 is a law that marked a great milestone in the civil rights and labor legislation in the United States of America (Gregory, 2014). The law illegalized unfair human practices like discrimination against a group of people in the society. The need for the law was a result of the history of injustices towards members of perceived inferior races. The problem led to oppression in labor practices, denial of voting rights, insults in public, as well as assault. The people of America thus needed measures to control the vice and the Civil Rights Act was inevitable as it was adopted to restore justice to the deprived American minorities. This essay seeks to examine the Civil Rights Act 1964 concerning its history, positive and adverse impacts, as well as compliance in business.

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The History of the Civil Rights Act 1964

The Origin

The source of the law traces back to the Birmingham Campaign/the 1963 Birmingham Movement convened by Christian Groups in the South of the United States to press for the integration of the Afro-Americans in Birmingham City in the State of Alabama (Mahn, 2014). The movement called for reforms that would give the Americans equal rights to access public facilities such as restaurants, hotels, shops, theater, and other public utility areas. The movement inspired John Kennedy’s speech on the civil rights (Mahn, 2014). Under the leadership of Martin Luther King Junior, Fred Shuttlesworth, and James Bevel, the movement used non-violent strategies that led to confrontations between Black students and the municipal administration, but they never gave up in their quest to change the civil law (Warren, 2008). The cause of all this trouble was racial division in Birmingham due to the law, as well as the cultural situation that subjected the Blacks to economic inequalities and they often faced brutality when they spoke up. Shuttlesworth organized a demonstration in the city to pressure the entrepreneurs to employ Blacks. Bevel invited students and instructed them to uphold peace throughout the demonstrations. The administration arrested thousands of people and unleashed police dogs and water cannons on the demonstrators (Mahn, 2014). However, the spirits of the people did not dampen and, thus, they fought till the end, hence paving the way for the civil rights bill.

The Then President

The Civil Rights Act came into place in the early 1960s during the era of John F. Kennedy. Due to the pressure from the Birmingham Campaign, he issued the civil rights speech in 1963 in which he expressed support for the recognition of the rights of the minority population (Gregory, 2014). Before his speech, he convened a meeting with legislators from the Republican camp, and both majority and minority leaders in the Senate agreed to support his move. However, John Kennedy died later in the year after assassination, but his successor Lyndon Johnson actualized his dream as he urged the legislature to hasten the Civil Rights Bill as a tribute to the late Kennedy. The bill was passed by the Senate in 1964 and Johnson appended his signature (Golway & Krantz, 2010). The Act, therefore, came up under the presidency of Kennedy and Johnson.

Changes Brought by the Act

To the Blacks

The law awarded the Blacks equal rights for accommodation as those possessed by their White counterparts. Before the law, the Blacks in some states could not share public facilities with the Whites as there were segregated schools, churches, hospitals, shops, and even buses for the two races. However, the law unified the right of access to these facilities and, thus, it appeared as a form of restorative justice (Wright, 2015). Despite the reluctance by business owners to serve Black customers, they eventually agreed to accommodate them.

Before the enactment of the law, there was high-level discrimination in the labor market, whereby in some states some companies offered jobs exclusively for the Whites or they reserved some specific jobs with high salaries to the Whites. However, according to Wright (2015), the law compelled employers to exercise affirmative action by allocating jobs and wages based on competency as opposed to racial background. Besides, Bourne (2014) states that the law further created the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission to safeguard the rights of the minorities in the employment field. The law thus gave economic empowerment to the Blacks by giving them the opportunity to work.

The law restored the dignity of the Blacks because before the law there had been a perception that Blacks were an inferior race as opposed to their White counterparts. The notion led to the feeling of white supremacy that made the race dominate the Blacks. However, the law brought the idea of racial equality, thus emphasizing the respect for the Blacks as human beings (Wright, 2015). The law also gave voting rights to the Blacks (Bourne, 2014). However, although the law called for racial equality, it could not force the Whites to accept the fact and the respect for the Blacks laid in the mind of an individual White.

The Whites

Positively, the law was beneficial to female Whites because it did not only ban discrimination by race, but also regarding gender and, thus, it empowered the White women. The law also addressed the plight of the Hispanic Whites who faced segregation because of their origin as it enabled them to access jobs just like the rest of the population (Duleep & Regets, 2012). In this regard, the law was beneficial to White women and the Hispanics as it empowered them by giving them a stake in the employment sector.

However, the law was not desirable for the Whites as it robbed them of their unjustified misconception of racial supremacy through the empowerment of the Blacks. For example, the rule enabled the latter to vote and have access to employment just like the Whites and, hence, it watered down the pride of White supremacists (Wright, 2015). The law outlawed the segregation of the Blacks in public facilities and, this way, it compelled White supremacists to share them with people they perceived as inferior. The law was, therefore, an assault on those who felt that the Blacks were not equal to them.

Business Change

The law led to the establishment of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission that compelled entrepreneurs to employ people by merit and thus to enable the Blacks and all females to have access to jobs just like the White males (Bourne, 2014). The law also compelled employers to harmonize salaries in order to ensure that the race would not be a determining factor in the payment of wages. The law dampened the interests of racist entrepreneurs who never wished to offer employment to the Blacks. Regarding the above information, the law brought changes to the business sector.

Business Culture

The employment culture in business drastically changed with the passing of the Civil Rights Bill. The law abolished racial segregation and despite racist entrepreneurs being reluctant to sell to the Blacks, they gradually started serving them and, hence, the culture of discrimination in business started withering down (Bourne, 2014). The law also changed employment practices as it compelled employers to offer jobs to people of all races and end the practice of granting different opportunities in the job market.

Compliance by Business


The Civil Rights Act 1964 prohibits unfair employment practices such as discrimination based on race and sex among others and companies caught violating the law may pay a fine of between $50,000 and $300,000 depending on the size of the firm (Briggs & Curry, 2012). The employee may further seek to recover the cost of suit from the employer, thus adding more burdens to the convicted entrepreneur. However, apart from this federal law, there are also state and local/municipal legislation that applies to unwanted labor practices. For instance, in the City of Atlanta there is an ordinance that prohibits discrimination against an individual or a group of employees. The law further calls for prosecution of an accused employer and he/she may have to cater for the cost of investigation, as well as legal fees in addition to compensating the aggrieved worker (Briggs & Curry, 2012). In this regard, the law does not tolerate indecency in employment and, thus, employers have a hard lesson to learn from the stipulated penalties.

Impact in the Local Arena

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964 prohibits employers in the United States to discriminate against individuals by sex, color, religion, and origin among others. The law brought changes in the labor market and compelled employers to spend more on salaries of the formerly molested workers such as the Black minorities. In the 1960s, wages of the Blacks between 20 and 60 years rose rapidly as a result of the law as it compelled employers to award reasonable pay to the group (Bourne, 2014). The law, therefore, had a great impact on businesses as it compelled managers to spend more on salaries for the Blacks.

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Impact Abroad

The United States has numerous companies that have spread their operations overseas. For instance, the Walmart has branches in Mexico, China, the United Kingdom, Korea, and Japan among other countries. Pfizer also has several branches abroad, for example, in Singapore. 2,000 US companies operate over 20,000 units in other nations and the Civil Rights Act 1991 introduced changes into the previous act of 1964 to extend application of the law to these branches (Durant, 2008). However, the law only covers American citizens working in these companies abroad. The US, therefore, amended the Civil Rights Act in 1991 to protect its citizens living abroad from exploitation.



In conclusion, the Civil Rights Act 1964 outlawed unjust labor practices such as discrimination based on gender, race, religion, or origin. The act originated from the Birmingham Campaign in which Martin Luther King and others called for the integration of the Blacks. The Civil Rights Bill began under the presidency of John F. Kennedy and was passed under the regime of his successor Lyndon Johnson. With respect to the Blacks, the law gave them equal rights for accommodation, voting, and employment. With respect to the Whites, the law benefitted women and the Hispanic population as it enabled them to access employment freely. However, the law robbed the Whites of their pride and perceived racial superiority. The law affected the business as it brought changes in employment as well as customer service. Regarding compliance, the law prescribed a penalty of $50,000-$300,000 depending on the size of business. In the local sphere, the law led to increased salaries for the Blacks, while the amendment of the act in 1991 safeguarded the American citizens working abroad from exploitation. The law was, therefore, a blessing for minorities as it restored the justice they had been denied for so long.