AP US HISTORY: 1945-1968
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The postwar world, 1945–80
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The images coming out of the Deep South horrified Americans from all walks of life. In August , King and other civil rights leaders organized what had been to that point the largest-ever demonstration in the capital: the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. A reluctant Kennedy administration began coordinating with congressional allies to pass a significant reform bill.
McCulloch and Celler forged a coalition of moderate Republicans and northern Democrats while deflecting southern amendments determined to cripple the bill. I think we all realize that what we are doing [today] is a part of an act of God. In scope and effect, the act was among the most far-reaching pieces of legislation in U. It contained sections prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations Title II ; in state and municipal facilities, including schools Titles III and IV ; and—incorporating the Powell Amendment—in any program receiving federal aid Title V.
Having passed the House, the act faced its biggest hurdle in the Senate. President Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield of Montana tapped Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota to build Senate support for the measure and fend off the efforts of a determined southern minority to stall it. President Johnson signed the bill into law on July 2, The legislation suspended the use of literacy tests and voter disqualification devices for five years, authorized the use of federal examiners to supervise voter registration in states that used tests or in which less than half the voting-eligible residents registered or voted, directed the U.
Attorney General to institute proceedings against use of poll taxes, and provided criminal penalties for violations of the act. Passage of the Civil Rights Act of dealt the deathblow to southern congressional opposition. On March 7, , marchers led by future Representative John R. As with the brutality in Birmingham, public reaction was swift and, if possible, even more powerful. The sight of them rolling over us like human tanks was something that had never been seen before. After President Johnson addressed a Joint Session of Congress to speak about the events in Selma, legislative action was swift.
The bill that quickly moved through both chambers suspended the use of literacy tests for a five-year period and stationed federal poll watchers and voting registrars in states with persistent patterns of voting discrimination. It also required the Justice Department to approve any change to election law in those states. Conyers, along with Representatives Diggs, Hawkins, and Powell, had visited Selma in February as part of a Member congressional delegation that investigated voting discrimination. An amended conference report passed both chambers by wide margins, and President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of into law on August 6, The measure dramatically increased voter registration in the short term.
By , 60 percent of all southern blacks were registered. Predictably, the bill had the biggest effect in the Deep South. In Mississippi, for instance, where less than 7 percent of African Americans qualified to vote in , 59 percent were on voter rolls by In southern states, particularly in cities such as Atlanta, Houston, and Memphis, the creation of districts with a majority of African-American constituents propelled greater numbers of African Americans into Congress by the early s.
In northern cities, too, the growing influence of black voters reshaped Congress.
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African Americans constituted a growing percentage of the population of major U. Louis , and Shirley Chisholm Brooklyn were elected to Congress from redrawn majority-black districts in which white incumbents chose not to run.
The final major piece of civil rights legislation of the decade was designed to extend the legal protections outlawing racial discrimination beyond the Civil Rights Act of and the Voting Rights Act of In President Johnson called for additional legislation to protect the safety of civil rights workers, end discrimination in jury selection, and eliminate restrictions on the sale or rental of housing. Over the next two years, opposition to this legislation emerged from both parties, leading to a protracted battle that culminated in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of Benefitting from Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, the Johnson administration instituted immigration reforms and created federally funded programs to stimulate urban development, bolster consumer protection, strengthen environmental regulations, fund education programs, and expand the social safety net by providing health coverage through Medicare and Medicaid.
Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of on April 11, The act prohibited discrimination in the sale or rental of approximately 80 percent of the housing in the U. Newly elected Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts fourth from left attended the signing. At the start of the 90th Congress — , President Johnson once again called for a new civil rights bill. This time, the Democratic strategy was to propose several bills based on the component parts of the failed bill from the 89th Congress.
In so doing, Democrats hoped to pass as many of the individual bills as possible. During the tumultuous summer of , access to housing was at the forefront of a national discussion on urban policy, particularly after violence erupted in cities such as Detroit and Newark, New Jersey.
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House Democrats were unable to attract support for a fair housing bill in the summer of But the House did pass a narrow civil rights bill on August 15, , which established federal penalties for anyone forcibly interfering with the civil and political rights of individuals. The bill specified that civil rights workers would be afforded similar protections when serving as advocates for those trying to exercise their rights. Many justified their resistance to the proposed legislation by highlighting the riots that broke out in July In the Senate, Republicans joined segregationist Democrats in what seemed to be formidable opposition to the bill.
When the upper chamber finally began to debate the legislation in February , Senator Brooke joined with Senator Walter Mondale of Minnesota to draft an amendment designed to prohibit discrimination in the sale or rental of 91 percent of all housing in the nation.
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On the Senate Floor, Brooke described the way segregated neighborhoods, typically far from employment opportunities, did extensive damage to the African-American community. When he declared that he was open to supporting the fair housing amendment with some revisions, negotiations began between the parties. The final bill included several concessions to Dirksen, such as reducing the housing covered by the fair housing provision. Also, an amendment was added to the bill to attract the support of Senators who had been reluctant to vote for the civil rights bill, which made it a federal crime to cross state lines to participate in a riot.
An additional amendment prohibited Native American tribal governments from restricting the exercise of specific constitutional rights on their lands. For decades, opponents on the Rules Committee blocked civil rights initiatives, and Colmer sought to keep the Senate bill off the floor by sending it to a conference committee, where it could be debated and revised, or simply stalled, by Members.
On April 4—the day before the Rules Committee was scheduled to vote on whether to send the bill to the House Floor or to send it to conference—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The Rules Committee postponed its vote.
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A violent weekend in cities across the nation resulted in 46 people killed, thousands injured, and millions of dollars in property damage before the National Guard helped quelled the disturbances. Unexpectedly, a majority of the committee defied the chairman and voted to send the bill to the floor. Representative Joseph D.
Less than a week later, the House approved the Senate bill by a vote of to , and President Johnson signed it into law on April 11, The enforcement mechanisms of the fair housing provision, however, ended up being somewhat limited in that it required private individuals or advocacy groups to file suit against housing discrimination. Next Section. See also David J.