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Cloture Motion on the Civil Rights Bill of 1964, June 10, 1964

In both houses of Congress, opponents challenged the civil rights bill. To end a record-breaking 60-day Senate filibuster, Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois joined Majority Leader Mike Mansfield of Montana to invoke cloture and end debate. Dirksen declared, "The time has come for equality. . . !” For the first time, the Senate voted to end a civil rights filibuster.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

Cloture Motion on the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 Cloture Motion on the Civil Rights Bill of 1964

Congress and the Court Secure Civil Rights

Congress and the Supreme Court have used their distinct but overlapping powers to define the legal basis of civil rights. After the Civil War and Reconstruction, violent intimidation and local Jim Crow laws continued to restrict black people, particularly in the South. Civil rights activists challenged those conditions, and in Brown vs. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court declared school segregation unconstitutional. Over the next decade, Congress passed landmark legislation to end segregation and ensure all citizens may freely exercise their civil rights.

We must come to see with the jurists of yesterday that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” We have waited for more than three hundred and forty years for our constitutional and God-given rights.

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Letter From Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963