One of the most important pieces of legislation in the history of the country became law on this date in 1964, as President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. The act prohibited discrimination on the basis of race in all accommodations and facilities open to the public, as well as employment, union membership and voter registration. To put teeth into the law, one provision allowed for the cutoff of federal funding in areas where discrimination persisted. Shortly after the Civil Rights Act became law, nearly 42 percent of blacks lived in poverty. Today, that figure is just under 25 percent. In 1964, less than 20 percent of African- American adults had a high school diploma. Now, 83 percent have graduated.
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