President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, while Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and others looked on.
On April 10, 2014, at the Civil Rights Summit, President Barack Obama paid tribute to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on its 50th anniversary. The three-day summit was held at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas. President Obama’s speech was an especially moving part of this event. That is because many people think that the Civil Rights Act helped pave the way for Barack Obama becoming the first African American President of the United States.
In his keynote speech at the Civil Rights Summit, President Obama noted how he had benefited from the Civil Rights Act. He said, “Because of the Civil Rights movement, because of the laws President Johnson signed, new doors of opportunity and education swung open for everybody—not all at once, but they swung open. . . And that’s why I’m standing here today—because of those efforts, because of that legacy.”
Fifty years ago, shortly after he became President, Lyndon B. Johnson asked Congress to pass the civil rights bill that President John F. Kennedy had first introduced. In June 1964, both Democrats and Republicans voted to pass the Civil Rights Act. President Johnson signed it into law on July 2, 1964. This law made segregation in public places against the law. It also said that employers could not refuse to hire people because of their race, religion, national origin, or gender.
Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush also gave speeches at the Civil Rights Summit this year. They spoke about the Civil Rights Act’s historic importance. They also talked about the importance of protecting people’s rights today. Famous musicians, such as Mavis Staples, and sports stars, such as Jim Brown and Bill Russell, spoke at the summit, too. Young government leaders, such as Mayor Julián Castro, as well as heroes of the Civil Rights movement, like Julian Bond, also took part.
Image credit: ©Archivio GBB Contrasto/Redux
- Marking the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act at the LBJ Presidential Library
Read more about this important anniversary on the White House Blog.
- Civil Rights Summit
Watch videos of Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter at the official website of the Civil Rights Summit.
- LBJ Presidential Library
Learn more about Lyndon B. Johnson at the official site of his presidential library.