75 Pivotal Public Policies: America’s Civil Rights Act

While slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865, as the Civil War ended, many African-Americans continued to be treated as second-class citizens. Protests and acts of civil disobedience led by the likes of the Reverend Martin Luther King brought about many significant changes, of which the most comprehensive, in that it addressed not just racoism but other forms of discrimination, was the Civil Rights Act.

The new law passed in 1964 prohibited discrimination by federal and state governments based on race, colour, religion, sex and national origin. Four years later, in 1968, a second Civil Rights Act extended this protection to also prohibit discrimination based on race, creed and national origin in the sale, rental and financing of housing.

While many of these groups continue to experience discrimination including, as the #blacklivesmatter campaign has highlighted, African-Americans, these laws represented a significant step forward in the struggle for equality, and were a foundational part of what President Lyndon Johnson called the Great Society.


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