Future Presidents Kennedy and Johnson opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, but the findings of the Commission created by that Act graphically anatomized the pervasiveness of discrimination in American society, and the perniciousness of its effects, promoting a sea-change in public opinion. When Kennedy was assassinated, his successor, President Johnson, channelled the ensuing wave of popular sentiment to force passage of the legislation that Kennedy had prepared. His address to Congress, ‘no memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honour President Kennedy’s memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long’, forced its passage over determined blocking attempts by southern Democrats. It secured 80 per cent Republican, 60 per cent Democrat support, banning federal funding for segregated schools and federal contracts for segregated businesses. Most critically, it banned segregation in public places. African Americans, Latinos, women, and religious minorities would benefit from its equal opportunities provisions.
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