Lyndon Johnson's Fight for Civil Rights

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President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act into law, July 2, 1964.

President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act into law, July 2, 1964. Corbis hide caption

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Forty years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a bill that changed the face of America. It opened all public accommodations — hotels, restaurants, swimming pools — to all Americans regardless of race, color, religion or national origin.

The bill also ended legal discrimination in employment on the basis of race or sex, and established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to enforce the law. The signing ceremony represented a personal triumph for Johnson, who lobbied tirelessly on behalf of the bill. Recordings of the president's phone conversations reveal his relentless campaign to wrangle lawmakers in favor of the controversial bill.

NPR's Steve Inskeep and NPR's Cokie Roberts recall Johnson's role in passing the historic act.



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