Why was the Civil Rights Bill passed in 1964?

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Death of JFK.

  • 'No memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honour President Kennedy's memory than the earliest possible passage of the Civil Rights Bill for which he fought for so long'
  • Johnson made emotive appeal to national traditions and ideals and to Kennedy's memory.
  • LBJ felt that the death of Kennedy prevented the bill being emasculated, like Eisenhower's had been. The nation was saddened and passing the bill seemed an appropriate tribute.
  • Congressmen knew their constituents were usually receptive at this time to righting national wrongs, partly because they felt it would somehow atone for Kennedy's death.
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Pressure from the Civil Rights Movement.

  • There was increasing support from religious organisations after Birmingham.
  • NAACP, trade unionists and the churches had lobbied Congress incessantly.
  • Black activists had drawn the attention of the nation and its legislators to injustices. 'The real hero of this struggle is the American Negro', said LBJ.
  • Important Congressional leaders such as Hubert Humphrey worked hard on the bill.
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LBJ.

  • The Republican minority leader Everitt Dirkson was won over by Kennedy, and then Johnson, and persuaded to 'deliver' Republican votes.
  • As a southerner, LBJ could assert that legislation was necessary, without being accused of being an ignorant, interfering, northern liberal.
  • LBJ had an unusual two-thirds of Congress on his side (it's rare to have both a Democratic majority in Congress and a Democratic president).
  • LJB won over a few southerners by appealing to their self interests
  • LBJ devoted a staggering amount of time, energy and political capital to breaking the Senate filibuster and ensuring the passing of the act.
  • Due to his 24 years in Congress, for many of which he was Democratic party leader, Johnson had unprecedented experience in getting legislations through Congress.
  • The act had increasing public support, which Congress could not afford to ignore. By Jan. 1964, 68% of Americans favoured the bill.
  • All living Presidents, Hoover, Truman, Eisenhower, agreed to sign a statement supporting the principle of civil rights. This made it easier for LBJ to assert that southerners were out of line.
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