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The Civil Rights Act of 1964 facts was one of the most momentous and far-reaching pieces of legislation in American history. The act prohibited segregation in public facilities and private establishments catering to the public, particularly restaurants and hotels. It also prohibited discrimination in private employment on the basis of race, creed, sex, or national origin. It extended federal authority over private behavior to an extraordinary degree; that power would continue to grow in the ensuing years.

Civil Rights Act of 1964 Facts

Does the 1964 Act deserve the credit for improved black employment opportunities? Economist Thomas Sowell isn’t so sure. He points out that in the decade prior to its passage, blacks had more than doubled their representation in professional, technical, and other high-level positions. “In other kinds of occupations,” moreover, “the advance of blacks was even greater during the 1940s—when there was little or no civil rights policy— than during the 1950s when the civil rights revolution was in its heyday.” The increase in black employment in professional and technical occupations in the two years following the passage of the act was smaller than the increase in the single year from 1961 to 1962, before the act was passed. “[T]he Civil Rights Act of 1964,” he observes, “represented no acceleration in trends that had been going on for many years.” The percentage of blacks employed as managers and administrators was no higher in 1967 than it had been in 1964 or 1960.


The affirmative action programs started in 1971 (under President Richard Nixon, contrary to popular belief) were accompanied by an improvement in the condition of blacks at the higher end of the earning spectrum, while those least advantaged lagged further behind. Similar stories could be told about Asian and Hispanic employment. Their prospects had already been improving for years, and the 1964 Act inaugurated no acceleration of trends that were already in effect.

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