After months of heated debate in the House of Representatives and Senate, the Civil Rights Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2, 1964.
In a historic televised event in the East Room of the White House, Johnson signed the legislation with 85 different pens, and later gave them away as mementos of the occasion.
Championed by President Kennedy in his successful 1960 campaign, civil rights became a mainstay of the Johnson administration after Kennedy was assassinated.
Johnson, as vice president, was the chairman of the President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunities before assuming the presidency after Kennedy's death.
Widely considered one of the most sweeping civil rights legislation, the Civil Rights Act ensured that blacks and other minorities would not be discriminated against in the workplace and schools. It also prohibited racial segregation in public places such as parks, schools, buses and swimming pools.
The law laid the groundwork for other important pieces of civil rights legislation such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965—parts of which were struck down by the Supreme Court last week.