Fifty years ago, on July 2, 1964, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law.
After the assassination of John F. Kennedy and working with Martin Luther King Jr.,
Johnson vowed to continue the fight for the historic legislation.

President Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King Jr. and others look on.(Cecil Stoughton; White House Press Office)

James Meredith walking to class at University of Mississippi, accompanied by U.S. marshals James McShane (left) and John Doar of the Justice Department (right). (Marion S. Trikosko; U.S. News & World Report - Library of Congress)

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his "Letter from Birmingham Jail" after being arrested and booked on April 12, 1963.(Birmingham Police Department)

President Johnson meets with Martin Luther King Jr. in the White House Cabinet Room.
(Yoichi R. Okamoto - Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum)

Troops from the 327th Regiment, 101st Airborne escorting the Little Rock Nine African-American students up
the steps of Central High.(U.S. Army/National Archives)

Participants, some carrying American flags, during the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965.(Library of Congress)

Martin Luther King Jr. and other civi-rights leaders and officials meet with President Kennedy.(Leffler; Warren K.)

An FBI poster asking for information on the missing civil-rights activists Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner,
who were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi in the summer of 1964.(FBI)

This United States Information Agency photograph of the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963, shows civil-rights and union leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., Joseph L. Rauh Jr., Whitney Young, Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph, Walter Reuther, and Sam Weinblatt.(National Archives)


Civil Rights Timeline

(CNN) -- The Civil Rights Act in 1964 is considered the nation's most important civil rights legislation since Reconstruction (1865-1877) as it prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Following that law, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed landmark civil rights bills including the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

Other Facts:
"Each year, from 1945 until 1957, Congress considered and failed to pass a civil rights bill. Congress finally passed limited Civil Rights Acts in 1957 and 1960, but they offered only moderate gains. As a result of the 1957 Act, the United States Commission on Civil Rights was formed to investigate, report on, and make recommendations to the President concerning civil rights issues." - National Park Service

June 11, 1963 - President John F. Kennedy proposes a civil rights bill during his Radio and Television Report to the American People on Civil Rights.

June 19, 1963 - President Kennedy submits bill H.R. 7152 to the House of Representatives.

October 15, 1963 - Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy testifies before the House Judicary Committee in support of H.R. 7152.

November 20, 1963 - A version of the bill passes from the House Judiciary Committee on to the House Rules Committee.

November 22, 1963 - Lee Harvey Oswald assassinates President John F. Kennedy.

November 27, 1963 - President Lyndon B. Johnson, speaking before a Joint Session of Congress, says, "No memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy's memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long."

December 1963 - The House adjourns with the bill still in committee.

January 1964 - The House Rules Committee debates the bill.

February 10, 1964 - The bill passes the House.

March 30, 1964-June 10, 1964 - The Senate debates the bill for 60 working days, including seven Saturdays with many attempts to filibuster the bill. The Senate Committee on the Judiciary is not involved.

June 9-10, 1964 - Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia filibusters the bill for 14 hours and 13 minutes before the Senate votes 71 to 29 to cloture the bill. A motion to cloture forces an immediate vote. This vote by two-thirds or more brings all debate to an end.

June 19, 1964 - In a 73 to 27 vote, the Senate adopts an amended bill, which is sent back to the House.

June 21, 1964 - Three young men volunteering for the voter registration drive Freedom Summer disappear in segregated Mississippi. Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Earl Chaney were driving to a Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) office in Meridian, Mississippi, that evening. This leads to a national outcry, protests, and a FBI investigation.

July 2, 1964 - The House of Representatives adopts the Senate version of the bill 289-126.

July 2, 1964 - President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the bill into law.

August 4, 1964 - The FBI finds the bodies of the three missing civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi. They had been shot and buried beneath a dam.

December 14, 1964 - The Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of the act in the interstate commerce case Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. the United States of America. The case, initiated by an Atlanta motel seeking to discriminate among its customers based on race, proves to be a major test of the Civil Rights Act.

August 6, 1965 - Passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 helps protect voter rights, especially for African Americans barred from voting by local governments. Preclearance, or federal pre-approval for voting changes, is required for jurisdictions with a history of disenfranchisement.

June 25, 2013 - In the case Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, Attorney General, et al., the Supreme Court strikes down Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act. The court deems federal preclearance no longer necessary.