What did the Civil Rights Act of 1964 do? This act outlawed discrimination against people based on their race in public places and allowed for the integration of public facilities, schools included. It also allowed for equal employment opportunities for all Americans. Before the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many employers in Chicago, Illinois, discriminated against candidates based on gender and race.
Today, everyone has the right to access places of work, spend their money, and live anywhere, regardless of color, race, sex, religion, age, disability, or national origin. Though issues like high unemployment, high incarceration rates, and gun violence are still negatively affecting communities, there’s hope for equal access to opportunity and positive change.
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Pre-Civil Rights Act Illinois
Employment discrimination in Illinois based on gender and race was more pronounced before 1964. As such, there were multiple discrimination cases in hiring, promoting, and firing. Color, race, sex, religion, age, national origin, and disability were not considered in matters of equal protection rights.
Agitation for equal rights was a common issue in the Chicago scene, led by activists who were part of the Civil Rights movement. People from other races joined African Americans in this fight. They wanted to be legally recognized as American citizens to enjoy access to opportunities like other citizens.
Racial Discrimination and Segregation in the State
Though Illinois was a free state before the Civil War, its laws restricted blacks from voting and immigrating to the state. Chicago was a recognized center for antislavery activity, but there was still segregation in public accommodations and city schools. As a result, black Chicago residents protested against these restrictions.
Besides gaining the right to vote in 1870, black Chicagoans hailed a state law that forbade segregated education in 1874. They also convinced the state legislature to endorse a measure allowing everyone to enjoy public places like restaurants, theaters, and public accommodations. Following a successful legal challenge in 1896, the state legislators revised what was recognized as Illinois’s first civil rights act.
However, city practices failed to adhere to this regulation. Black Chicago residents still faced discrimination in hotels and restaurants, among other public places. There were reports of theaters seating African Americans on the balcony.
Despite the civil rights law enactment, blacks could not seek justice for discrimination or find help on how to file a civil rights complaint against police. Chicago faced lots of tension based on race issues. As a result, a branch of the organization for colored people’s advancement was established in the city.
The organization advocated for a fair society throughout the 1910s. It was also at the forefront of the civil rights movement, which pushed for equal opportunities regardless of race, gender, and age.
Key Events or Incidents That Fueled the Civil Rights Movement in Illinois
As the Great Depression was nearing, activism from the African-American community reached new heights. Residents protested against access to public spaces, employment discrimination, and segregated schools. Staged sit-ins in the 1940s helped lift restrictions on recreational centers and restaurants in Chicago.
Most public accommodation facilities and schools were open to African Americans in the 1960s. More matches and boycotts against school segregation were still happening in the city, paving the way for racial justice. Even after the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed, activism and nonviolent protests continued to push for the end of housing and employment discrimination in metropolitan Chicago.
Understanding the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Before the Civil Rights Act was passed, Americans concerned about equality pressured the courts, Congress, and the President to exercise the mandate of the 14th Amendment. As a result, the federal government’s three branches debated whether it would be ideal to include the gender, ethnic, and race criteria in matters of equal protection rights. They also discussed how considering these criteria would result in social justice.
The President at that time called for a civil rights bill in response to people protesting segregation and the murder of an innocent civilian. There were still talks to enact the bill even after the president’s assassination in 1963. Congress passed the law in 1964, which prohibited discrimination based on color, race, sex, national origin, or religion and settled the civil liberties vs. civil rights debate.
Prohibition of Racial Segregation in Public Spaces
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 declared that businesses, such as hotels, restaurants, and theaters, were among the public spaces that were open to everyone. The law also banned discrimination in workplaces and employment. It ended segregation in public spaces like public schools, libraries, and swimming pools, allowing everyone to access these facilities regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender.
A new voting rights bill was passed to expand the rights that previously marginalized communities enjoyed. The Civil Rights Act was amended in 1968 to include new protections against housing and voting discrimination and racially motivated violence. There was also an economic opportunity bill enacted in 1964 that sought to address economic inequalities that prevailed along with racial exclusion and discrimination.
Protection Against Discrimination in Employment
The 1964 Act and the Civil Rights Movement was a great inspiration and blueprint for those who sought access and equality. In particular, a national women’s organization was established, drawing inspiration from one of the provisions of the 1964 Act that prohibited employment discrimination.
The provision on employment discrimination covers various employment decisions, like terminations, selections, and recruitment. It also prohibits employers from discriminating on any privilege, condition, or term of employment. Areas that may result in violations include providing benefits, measuring performance, assigning work, discharging, disciplining, training, transferring, promoting, hiring, and recruiting.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act covers employment agencies, state and local government employers, and apprenticeship programs. It also covers labor unions or companies with 15 or more workers. Federal government employees and independent contractors are not covered, however.
Consequences for Non-compliance
A civil rights lawyer can discuss the rights and options available to any victim of intentional employment discrimination. The lawyer can help such a person pursue a jury trial and recover compensatory and punitive damages within the limits outlined by the 1991 Civil Rights Act. Successful plaintiffs may also be entitled to retroactive seniority, employment reinstatement, and back pay.
Impact of the Civil Rights Act on Illinois
It has been over 50 years since the 1964 Civil Rights Act came into law. Over the years, this act has influenced the National Civil Rights Movement. Communities that previously felt discriminated against in Chicago, Illinois, among other parts of the country, now enjoy opportunities as other Americans.
It took bipartisan Congressional leadership and peaceful protests from brave men, women, and children for the Civil Rights Movement to arise. Activism from national leaders and grassroots also helped shape this movement. The same can be said about dedicated citizens from all walks of life who stood for what they believed in.
African Americans continue to enjoy equal access to places they could not enter or gain admission. All this is thanks to the Civil Rights Act that outlawed discrimination based on national origin, sex, religion, color, and race. Today, voter registration requirements, educational opportunities, access to public spaces, and entry to accommodation favor people of all backgrounds.
Immediate Effects and Responses to the Act in Illinois
Though African Americans still lag in fairness in the criminal justice system, employment opportunities, and educational attainment, progress has been made regarding access to shelter and public spaces. For Illinois residents, the Civil Rights Act served as a groundbreaking legislation that reflected what the state can achieve when the barriers to opportunities are lowered.
The 1964 Act proves that people can honor and learn from historic accomplishments to foster growth at both individual and national levels. In particular, segregation in the South ended by the 1970s, following the enactment of the Civil Rights Act. The federal government was committed to enforcing this law, just like leaders of the Civil Rights Movement who championed equal rights.
Impact on Employment Practices and Equal Opportunities in Illinois
Since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal anti-discrimination law, it still applies to Illinois residents and businesses. In particular, employers in this state are prohibited from discriminating against candidates’ age and citizenship status. It’s also unlawful to discriminate against gender when setting wages or other forms of salaries issued to workers.
Illinois employees are covered under the state’s anti-discrimination law, which borrows some elements from the 1964 Act. As such, employers have to adhere to the law’s provisions on sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, and disability discrimination. They may face civil and criminal consequences if they fail to comply with these provisions.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) handles cases of workplace discrimination. You can contact this federal agency through its landline or website if you believe you have been discriminated against at work or while trying to find work. The EEOC website has information on field offices spread across the country, Illinois included.