A Short Biography of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
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CitationKenneth W. Mack. "A Short Biography of the Civil Rights Act of 1964"." SMU Law Review 67 (2014): 229-835.
AbstractThis paper reframes the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a particularly open-ended and transformative text, and grounds the statute in a long history of organizing and advocacy that stretches back to the beginning of the twentieth century. That history shows that formal law sometimes opens new debates rather than closing old ones. Ordinary citizens and civil rights groups had pushed for federal anti-lynching legislation since the 1920s and had advocated for federal legislation creating a permanent Fair Employment Practices Committee since the 1940s. Indeed, the Act came on the heels of the 1963 "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom," where the marchers' official goals included access to employment, housing, public accommodations, education, the voting booth, and desegregated schools-as well as a federal full employment program. The Civil Rights Act's long and arduous passage through Congress was followed by continued violence, repression and activism that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A contentious process led to these two historic statutes of freedom, but their enactment was not an endpoint of the story. In fact, the Civil Rights Act's passage was followed by a renewed fight about the nature of inequality that drew in a broad spectrum of actors at all levels of American politics, and the Act continues to transform society to the present day. The Civil Rights Act is a text that will continue to inspire imaginative re-readings.
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