The Story: Civil Rights Movement

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I said, “If this bill is passed then it’s all over. They’re going to come in, they’re going to eat, they’re going to sleep in the motels. The law is the law, and I’ve been enforcing it because we had our laws. Now if this is passed we’re going to enforce that one. I’m going to force you to open up, and it’s going to be nonviolent.”

Laurie Pritchett

1963 March on Washington

"If this is passed"
- Laurie Pritchett

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The Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been highly contested by many white southerners. Nonetheless, by its July 2nd signing even some of the bill’s strongest opponents seemed resigned to its passage. The numerous changes the new law required of southern traditions and customs were upheld, however grudgingly, with surprisingly little direct backlash. Additional conflicts would follow, but the days immediately following President Johnson’s address were relatively peaceful.

Despite the unprecedented, quiet reaction to the passage of the Civil Rights Act, southern opinions on racial issues remained unsettled. Regional disapproval of President Johnson’s unwavering support for the bill would soon be revealed in the results of the 1964 presidential election. Johnson would win by a landslide, losing in only six states. Nonetheless, it is among these few states that the most significant statistic is found. For the very first time in American history, all five Deep South states voted Republican (Bullock 3). In addition to these five, Johnson’s opponent, Senator Barry Goldwater, won only his home state of Arizona.