President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Martin Luther King, Jr. (behind) observing Johnson signing the act. (80253)

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Initially proposed by John F. Kennedy, the bill outlawed employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. In addition to this, the act ended discrimination in public places.

What prompted the passage of this legislation? African Americans, especially in the South, grew increasingly frustrated with the discrimination they faced on a daily basis. Slavery was a thing of the past, but characteristics of it still remained in society, Jim Crow being the most visible sign.

Fast forward to the sixties and Americans saw the peak of the Civil Rights Movement. Encounters with the Ku Klux Klan and tragedies like the Birmingham Church bombing led blacks to publicly denounce discrimination and demand equality. Their wishes came true when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights act into law on July 2nd, 1964.

Some say that progress still needs to be made, but there is no doubt that this ended practices that kept blacks inferior and gave them more opportunities as American citizens.