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Post-war race relations

Federal Government action

By now, action by the federal government on Civil Rights could no longer be delayed. Remarkably, this action was taken by President Lyndon Johnson, a Southerner from Texas.

The Civil Rights Act, 1964

This made racial discrimination illegal in public places, such as theatres, cinemas and restaurants. Discrimination was also made illegal in many areas of employment. Finally, the federal government now had the power to take action against any state still operating policies of segregation.

The Voting Rights Act, 1965

In 1965, King led a march through Selma, Alabama, to protest at the political discrimination against black Americans. Yet again, serious violence developed at the hands of white racists.

In response to this, Johnson introduced a further Civil Rights reform. In August 1965, the Voting Rights Act became law, removing all barriers which prevented black Americans from registering as voters.


The non-violent campaigns of the Civil Rights movement during the 1950s and early to mid-1960s achieved notable successes. With charismatic and intelligent spokesmen such as Martin Luther King, the Civil Rights campaigners had brought the plight of black Americans to the attention of the whole world. The federal government had been forced to respond and the legislation of the nation had been changed to address the inequality and oppression experienced by millions of black citizens.

For many black Americans, and also many sympathetic white Americans, the hope was that the USA was entering a new age of equality and meaningful civil rights for all citizens.

By the mid 1960s, however, many black Americans were becoming disillusioned. Many Southern states continued to harass and persecute blacks regardless of the new legislation. Some black Americans, particularly in the north, wanted to follow a more drastic course of action.

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