July 2nd marks the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Signed into law by Lyndon B. Johnson, the Act outlawed discrimination based on race, sex, color, religion and national origin and made illegal voter registration requirements such as poll taxes and literacy tests.
Two new books about this time in history have recently been published and are available at OPL.
Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was initially blocked by a filibuster which led to a sixty day debate in the Senate, it was ultimately adopted with bipartisan support. In An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties, and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Washington journalist Todd S. Purdum recounts the political battle and struggles that ensued during the creation and passage of the Civil Rights Act and captures the political figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Lyndon B. Johnson, Everett Dirksen, Robert F. Kennedy, John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey who made the Act possible. The book takes its title from Everett Dirksen, the Senate GOP leader at the time who said, "No force is more powerful than an idea whose time has come."
New York Times editor Clay Rise also writes about the political struggles during this turning point in history in The Bill of the Century: The Epic Battle for the Civil Rights Act. Rise captures the grassroots activism, impassioned speeches, back room deals and political leadership that ultimately lead to the passage of The Civil Rights Act. Mike Mansfield, Strom Thurmond, NAACP lobbyist Charles Miller are several of the figures highlighted in Rise's account.
You can read the text of Public Law 88-352, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, on the House of Representatives website.