Civil Rights Act 1964
When the Government Stood Up For Civil Rights "All my life I've been
sick and tired, and now I'm just sick and tired of being sick and tired. No one
can honestly say Negroes are satisfied. We've only been patient, but how much
more patience can we have?" Mrs. Hamer said these words in 1964, a month
and a day before the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 would be signed into law
by President Lyndon B. Johnson. She speaks for the mood of a race, a race that
for centuries has built the nation of America, literally, with blood, sweat, and
passive acceptance. She speaks for black Americans who have been second class
citizens in their own home too long. She speaks for the race that would be
patient no longer that would be accepting no more. Mrs. Hamer speaks for the

African Americans who stood up in the 1950's and refused to sit down. They were
the people who led the greatest movement in modern American history - the civil
rights movement. It was a movement that would be more than a fragment of
history, it was a movement that would become a measure of our lives (Shipler

12). When Martin Luther King Jr. stirred up the conscience of a nation, he gave
voice to a long lain dormant morality in America, a voice that the government
could no longer ignore. The government finally answered on July 2nd with the

Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is historically
significant because it stands as a defining piece of civil rights legislation,
being the first time the national government had declared equality for blacks.

The civil rights movement was a campaign led by a number of organizations,
supported by many individuals, to end discrimination and achieve equality for

American Blacks (Mooney 776). The forefront of the struggle came during the

1950's and the 1960's when the feeling of oppression intensified and efforts
increased to gain access to public accommodations, increased voting rights, and
better educational opportunities (Mooney). Civil rights in America began with
the adoption of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution, which
ended slavery and freed blacks in theory. The Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1875
were passed, guaranteeing the rights of blacks in the courts and access to
public accommodation. These were, however, declared unconstitutional by the

Supreme Court, who decided that the fourteenth did not protect blacks from
violation of civil rights, by individuals. This decision allowed white Southern
conservative leadership to make laws and policies regarding blacks that eluded
constitutional guarantees. In the face of this blatant discrimination black

Americans started to gather and form new organizations to further, and in many
cases create civil rights for themselves. Civil rights leadership was assumed by
organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
people (NAACP), and the National Urban League (NUL). The NAACP was formally
organized in 1910, and for half a century was the foremost civil rights agency,
bringing mass amounts of litigation to the courts. In its commitment to the
ideals of democracy the NAACP pursued equality for all in the eyes of the
government. Around the middle of the century gains were being made in small
places, with a few minor changes in state laws. Yet blacks were still for all
conventional purposes second class citizens (Mooney 776). World War II and its
homecoming black veterans brought back even more unrest than before. After
fighting the Germans and witnessing Hitler's racial holocaust blacks realized
the inequality at home even more. The problem was helped by the migration of
black soldiers out West to take advantage of wartime prosperity. The civil
rights issue was now gaining a national face. Then the Supreme Court handed down
its devastating decision in Plessey vs. Ferguson (1896), that segregation is
constitutional as long as facilities are "separate but equal." In the
words of the one dissenting justice, "this is the worst decision the court
has ever handed down." The education provided to blacks proved to be,
"manifestly unequal by every yardstick," and blacks, impeded in
education, proved to summer in almost every other area as a result. Meanwhile
the government remained silent on this issue, and other issues of discrimination
in employment and voting restrictions (Mooney 777). The wall would eventually
have to come down, and Chief Justice Warren and the legendary Warren court
personally brought around its destruction. In 1954 the Supreme Court reversed
the decision of Plessey vs. Ferguson that had stood for almost forty-two years,
in the historic case of Brown vs. Board