Top of page

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Titles II and III: The Right to Go Where You Want

Share this post:

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.

Group of federal employees waiting for treatment at the Public Health Service Dispensary #32
Group of federal employees waiting for treatment at the Public Health Service Dispensary #32

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.

Birney, Montana. People who came to a Saturday night dance around the bar. Marion Post Walcott, 1941
Birney, Montana. People who came to a Saturday night dance around the bar. Marion Post Walcott, 1941

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®.

Comments (6)

  1. The Civil Rights Act is 1964 was NOT that long ago. I was born Feb., 1964. I do not find myself drinking from public water fountains, however, find myself faced with public restrooms at events where there is a difference in using the restroom behind a person of color. Even when I a shopping for clothing or in the grocery store, I find that white women will not stand behind a person of color. Lastly, just this past Chirstmas a Garden Ridge Home Store there was only one line. A white woman refused to stand behind me in line, she stood beside me if thought we were together; but not behind. So having said that, there is no change in the behavior of others. Finally, when I moved into a white area, someone called the police on me and we were the only black family on the block. Just because they saw a black family going down the street.

  2. Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not specifically protect against discrimination based on age. Was this oversight ever remedied?

    • A very, very quick on-line search notes that some states do have laws that deal with whether or not someone under a certain age can rent a hotel room but there appear to be no federal laws that I can find that relate to accommodation due to age. However there are age discrimination laws relating to employment. Here is some information on the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 which deals with age discrimination in employment. You can contact the Law Library of Congress through Ask A Librarian service and they may be able to give you a more complete answer than I can. Good luck.

  3. Can anyone tell me if this law covers how private businesses deal with patrons? A better example is, a bar refusing service to a Polynesian man because “other” Polynesians have been unruly in the past?

    • You may want to use the Ask A Librarian service to direct this question to the staff of the Law Library of Congress. The full text of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is available on the EEOC website.

  4. I do believe that there are people who still discriminate African Americans but I also want to say that there are white people who have respect for African Americans and would never do anything to harm them but in self defense. Second my Father was born in 1964 which is when the civil rights law was passed so we have to keep in mind that the nation needs time to grow and get passed that I’m not saying that every thing is fine and dandy but we need to keep perspective.

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.