In the United States in 2014, we take for granted a number of activities. We can go to any water fountain for a cool drink or go shopping in any store. We can enter any restaurant. If traveling, we can stay in any hotel we can afford. Prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, these simple activities were not so simple. Some caught drinking from the wrong water fountain could be arrested. Some who wanted a restaurant meal had to go to the kitchen or were not allowed to be served. And some had to sleep in their cars when hotels would not allow them entry.
Teaching with the Library of Congress is publishing a series of posts that look at different facets of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, each featuring primary sources that help students engage with different issues addressed by the Act. Today’s post focuses on Titles II – Injunctive Relief Against Discrimination in Places of Public Accommodation – and III – Desegregation of Public Facilities.
The first section of Title II simply states that all persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, and privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin. Additional sections of the Title go into specific detail on the kinds of places that are included in first section, how people are to act and what the law can do if someone is not allowed to enter a place of public accommodation. Title III focuses on the desegregation of public facilities and focuses on what the Attorney General of the United States can do to insure the desegregation of public facilities.
Explore with your students why Title II goes into such detail on the kinds of public accommodations covered by the Act. What would your students add to the list?
Review the collection of signs enforcing racial discrimination taken by staff of the Office of War Information. Students can compare images of similar places or facilities (such as water fountains) designated for “colored” and those designated for “white.” What differences do they see?
Invite your students to consider racial discrimination from multiple perspectives. They can write about how they would feel and what they would do if they were faced with one of these signs. They can also explore how they would feel and what they would do if they had to enforce the rules.
This series of blog posts is part of the Library of Congress commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act which is anchored by the web-based Civil Rights History Project and the exhibition, “The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom”. The exhibition is made possible by a generous grant from Newman’s Own Foundation and with additional support from HISTORY®.