My fellow Americans:
I am about to sign into law the Civil Rights Act of
1964. I want to take this occasion to talk to you about what that law means
One hundred and eighty-eight years ago this week a
of valiant men began a long struggle for freedom. They pledged
their fortunes, and their sacred honor not only to found a
nation, but to forge
an ideal of freedom--not only for political
independence, but for personal
liberty--not only to eliminate foreign rule,
but to establish the rule of
justice in the affairs of men.
was a turning point in our
history. Today in far corners of distant
continents, the ideals of those
American patriots still shape the struggles
of men who hunger for
This is a proud triumph. Yet those who
founded our country knew that
freedom would be secure only if each
generation fought to renew and enlarge its
meaning. From the minutemen at
Concord to the soldiers in Viet-Nam, each
generation has been equal to that
Americans of every race and color
have died in battle to protect
our freedom. Americans of every race and color
have worked to build a nation
of widening opportunities. Now our generation of
Americans has been called
on to continue the unending search for justice within
our own borders.
believe that all men are created equal. Yet many are
We believe that all men have certain unalienable
many Americans do not enjoy those rights.
We believe that all men
entitled to the blessings of liberty. Yet millions are being deprived of
those blessings--not because of their own failures, but because of the color
The reasons are deeply imbedded in history and tradition
nature of man. We can understand--without rancor or hatred--how this
But it cannot continue. Our Constitution, the foundation of
Republic, forbids it. The principles of our freedom forbid it. Morality
it. And the law I will sign tonight forbids it.
That law is the
months of the most careful debate and discussion. It was proposed
more than one
year ago by our late and beloved President John F. Kennedy. It
bipartisan support of more than two-thirds of the Members of
both the House and
the Senate. An overwhelming majority of Republicans as
well as Democrats voted
It has received the thoughtful support of
tens of thousands of civic
and religious leaders in all parts of this
Nation. And it is supported by the
great majority of the American
The purpose of the law is
It does not restrict the
freedom of any American, so long as he
respects the rights of others.
does not give special treatment to any
It does say the only
limit to a man's hope for happiness, and for
the future of his children,
shall be his own ability.
It does say that there
are those who are equal
before God shall now also be equal in the polling
booths, in the classrooms,
in the factories, and in hotels, restaurants, movie
theaters, and other
places that provide service to the public.
I am taking
steps to implement
the law under my constitutional obligation to "take care that
the laws are
First, I will send to the Senate my
LeRoy Collins to be Director of the Community Relations Service.
Collins will bring the experience of a long career of distinguished
service to the task of helping communities solve problems of human
through reason and commonsense.
Second, I shall appoint an advisory
committee of distinguished Americans to assist Governor Collins in his
Third, I am sending Congress a request for supplemental
appropriations to pay for necessary costs of implementing the law, and
for immediate action.
Fourth, already today in a meeting of my
afternoon I directed the agencies of this Government to fully
discharge the new
responsibilities imposed upon them by the law and to do it
without delay, and to
keep me personally informed of their
Fifth, I am asking appropriate
officials to meet with
representative groups to promote greater understanding of
the law and to
achieve a spirit of compliance.
We must not approach the
enforcement of this law in a vengeful spirit. Its purpose is not
Its purpose is not to divide, but to end divisions--divisions which
lasted too long. Its purpose is national, not regional.
promote a more abiding commitment to freedom, a more constant pursuit of
justice, and a deeper respect for human dignity.
We will achieve these
because most Americans are law-abiding citizens who want to do what is
This is why the Civil Rights Act relies first on voluntary
then on the efforts of local communities and States to secure
the rights of
citizens. It provides for the national authority to step in
only when others
cannot or will not do the job.
This Civil Rights Act is
a challenge to all of
us to go to work in our communities and our States, in
our homes and in our
hearts, to eliminate the last vestiges of injustice in
So tonight I urge every public official, every
every business and professional man, every workingman,
every housewife--I urge
every American--to join in this effort to bring
justice and hope to all our
people--and to bring peace to our land.
fellow citizens, we have come now
to a time of testing. We must not
Let us close the springs of racial
poison. Let us pray for wise and
understanding hearts. Let us lay aside
irrelevant differences and make our
Nation whole. Let us hasten that day when
our unmeasured strength and our
unbounded spirit will be free to do the great
works ordained for this Nation
by the just and wise God who is the Father of us
Thank you and good
You can go to this page on about.com and read the text of this act http://uspolitics.about.com/od/usgovernment/a/civilRights_act.htm .
I was a child of 7 when this act was signed into legislation. My memories of the 60s are those of turbulence and violence. I was fortunate not to live in the cities where violence seemed to flourish; I can't help thinking of how devastating it must have been for small children who did live directly in the path of violence. We have come a long way but we still need to work together to strive for equality for all.
Lydon Baines Johnson Library and Museum. "President Lyndon B. Johnson's Radio and Television Remarks Upon Signing the Civil Rights Bill July 2, 1964." Available from http://www.lbjlib.utexas.edu/johnson/archives.hom/speeches.hom/640702.asp. Internet; accessed 02 July 2008.
Gill, Kathy. "US Civil Rights Act - 1964 Public Law 88-352." Available from http://uspolitics.about.com/od/usgovernment/a/civilRights_act.htm. Internet; accessed 02 July 2008.