The Civil Rights Act of 1957

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Key Events

  • 1957
    • August 28th – Strom Thurmond, a leading Dixiecrat, filibustered for an astonishing 24 hours and 18 minutes and succeeded (temporarily) in derailing the Civil Rights Act
    • September 9th – President Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act, setting up US commission on Civil Rights which looked into how African Americans were prevented from exercising their right to vote in many parts of the South and allowed Federal courts to prosecute states that prevented people from voting
  • The 1957 Civil Rights Act
    In 1957, President Eisenhower sent Congress a proposal for civil rights legislation. The result was the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. The new act established the Civil Rights Section of the Justice Department and empowered federal prosecutors to obtain court injunctions against interference with the right to vote. It also established a federal Civil Rights Commission with authority to investigate discriminatory conditions and recommend corrective measures. The final act was weakened by Congress due to lack of support among the Democrats. Democrat leader Lyndon B. Johnston got a watered down version of the Bill through the Senate. Black response was mixed but Bayard Rustin felt that as the first Civil Rights Act in 82 years, it was a turning point.

    Taylor pp. 34-35


  1. Why did the Civil Rights Act of 1957 have little immediate impact?
  2. Why was it nonetheless significant?
  3. Why did Eisenhower support the Act?
  4. What was the most important consequence of the 1957 Civil Rights Act?
  5. What was the overall significance of the two acts?
  6. Use the mindmap on p. 35 and also all the material that you have so far studied to create a presentation on the progress made by African American Civil Rights in the 1950s. The focus of your presentation should be on explaining how progress was made, what was achieved and why it was so slow and difficult

The key events of this period – the Brown versus US Board of Education, Topeka landmark ruling in 1954; the national revulsion at the murder of Emmett Till in 1955; the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1956; the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and the Little Rock High School incident all demonstrated that a civil rights movement was emerging

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