Black History Month – February 10, 1964
Before February 10, 1964, you could have a pocket full of money, driving the latest automobile, be working on Wall Street and have a white butler, but if you tried to move into a certain neighborhood, they could actually tell you to your face, “We don’t allow ni**ers living in this neighborhood.”
Although after the passage of the act, they eventually came up with other methods, like burning your house down, you can thank the landmark legislation that prevents racist from saying it to your face… most of the time. The bill outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It prohibits unequal application of voter registration requirements, racial segregation in schools, employment, and public accommodations.
After more than 125 amendments, weeks of noose sighting, disappearances and misunderstandings, on February 10, 1964 it passed by a vote of 290-130. After 87 days of debate and backstabbing, it passed in the Senate by a vote of 73-27 on June 19. President Johnson signed the bill into law on June 2, 1964.
According to Blackfacts.com, the first person prosecuted under the new bill would be the future governor of Georgia, Lester Maddox. Now Lester was a dyed in the wool, hard scrabble racist. The kind you might envision lived somewhere on the outskirts of Mayberry , where Andy and Barney would sit around with the good old boys drinking hot shine, while Billy Joe showed off his collection of nig*er ears.
Before he became governor, Lester owned a restaurant called “Africa.” I’m just kidding:>) The actual name was the Pickrick Restaurant. Before the Civil Rights Act was passed, Lester was a known segregationist. After passage of the bill, he brought a lawsuit against the government which would exempt him and allow his business to remain segregated. After all that backstabbing and noose making on Capitol Hill, there was no way he was going to win that fight. He lost. Maddox said that he would close his restaurant rather than serve African Americans.
But Lester was not finished, not while there was a single white red blooded real American alive that he could serve his stank chicken to. On August 13, Lester closed his restaurant, and then open it under a new name, the “Lester Maddox Cafeteria,” where he pledged to serve only “acceptable” Georgians. Anyone who had more than 100th of the drop wasn’t acceptable. Rumor has it he threw a couple of white folks out because a tree outside cast a shadow on them.
During a trial for contempt of court on September 29, Maddox argued against the charges because he was no longer offering service to out-of-state travelers or integrationists. On February 5, 1965 a federal court ruled that Maddox was in contempt of court for failing to obey the injunction and assigned fines of two hundred dollars a day for failing to serve African Americans. Maddox ultimately closed his restaurant on February 7, 1965 rather than integrate it. He claimed that President Lyndon Johnson and communists put him out of business.
Lester became governor of Georgia on January 11, 1967. Upon the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., he denied the slain civil rights leader the honor of lying in state in the Georgia state capitol. Remember MLK was one of the architects of the landmark legislation. Maddox was an enigma of sort… he is also credited with appointing more blacks to government positions than did all past Georgia governors combined. That’s right.. now there were three of them. In addition he integrated the Georgia State Patrol and urged state troopers to address blacks as Mr. or Mrs. instead of derogatory terms like “nigg*r.” I know I joke a lot, but I’m not kidding about that last part.
On the serious side, it took a lot of people dying, and marching and pleading and begging, to get that bill signed. I really admire those tens of thousands of unnamed hero’s. We owe you a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.
Well, that’s some of the story of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Good night and God Bless America. I always wanted to say that…