Skip to main content

The Civil Rights Act Of 1964

July 2024
1min read

I would like to have watched Lyndon B. Johnson sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I make this choice because I was there—in spirit, at least. I have always been somewhat split between North and South, by parentage if not conviction. It happens that I was visiting Louisiana relatives that weekend, or whatever it was, that included July 4, 1964—the act was passed in June, but the actual signing took place July 2. On that day some of the rektives had taken me out yachting, and we were anchored at Pass Christian. Some people were talking about the civil rights workers who had disappeared. Somebody said they were probably buried a long way down in Mississippi soil. I was not sure if the speaker thought that good or bad: I was busy trying to make out the strange flags that were being flown by a lot of our neighbors.

“What’s that?” I asked at last. “What’s that funny flag on that launch over there?”

They scoffed at me. “It’s the Confederate flag,” they explained at last.

Then word came through on the radio about the signing.

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.