Civil Rights Act of 1968

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Civil Rights Act of 1968
Great Seal of the United States
Long titleAn Act to prescribe penalties for certain acts of violence or intimidation, and for other purposes.
  • Indian Civil Rights Act
  • Indian Bill of Rights
  • Fair Housing Act
  • Open Housing Act
  • Housing Rights Act
Enacted bythe 90th United States Congress
EffectiveApril 11, 1968
Public law90-284
Statutes at Large82 Stat. 73
Titles amendedTitle 42—Public Health And Welfare
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the House as H.R. 2516 by Emanuel Celler (DNY) on January 17, 1967
  • Committee consideration by Judiciary
  • Passed the House on August 16, 1967 (327–93)
  • Passed the Senate on March 11, 1968 (71–20) with amendment
  • House agreed to Senate amendment on April 10, 1968 (250–172)
  • Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on April 11, 1968
Major amendments
United States Supreme Court cases
President Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1968

The Civil Rights Act of 1968, (Pub.L. 90–284, 82 Stat. 73, enacted April 11, 1968), is a landmark law in the United States signed into law during the King assassination riots by President Lyndon B. Johnson on April 11, 1968.

Titles II through VII comprise the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968, which applies to the Native American tribes of the United States and makes many, but not all, of the guarantees of the Bill of Rights applicable within the tribes[1] (that Act appears today in Title 25, sections 1301 to 1303 of the United States Code).

Titles VIII through IX are commonly known as the Fair Housing Act and was meant as a follow‑up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While the Civil Rights Act of 1866 prohibited discrimination in housing, there were no federal enforcement provisions.[2] The 1968 act expanded on previous acts and prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, and since 1974, gender; since 1988, the act protects people with disabilities and families with children. Victims of discrimination may use both the 1968 act and the 1866 act via section 1983[3] to seek redress. The 1968 act provides for federal solutions while the 1866 act provides for private solutions (i.e., civil suits). The act also made it a federal crime to "by force or by threat of force, injure, intimidate, or interfere with anyone … by reason of their race, color, religion, or national origin, handicap or familial status."[4]

Title X makes it a felony to "travel in interstate commerce...with the intent to incite, promote, encourage, participate in and carry on a riot". This provision has been criticized for "equating organized political protest with organized violence".[5]


The Civil Rights Act of 1866 declared all people born in the United States are legally citizens. This means they could rent, hold, sell and buy property. This law was meant to help former slaves, and those who refused to grant these new rights to slaves were guilty and punishable under law. The penalty was a fine of $1000 or a maximum of one year in jail. The 1866 act provided no means to enforce the provisions.

Another impetus for the law's passage came from the 1966 Chicago Open Housing Movement. Also influential was the 1963 Rumford Fair Housing Act in California, which had been backed by the NAACP and CORE.[6][7] and the 1967 Milwaukee fair housing campaigns led by James Groppi and the NAACP Youth Council.[8] Senator Walter Mondale advocated for the bill in Congress, but noted that over successive years, a federal fair housing bill was the most filibustered legislation in US history.[9] It was opposed by most Northern and Southern senators, as well as the National Association of Real Estate Boards.[6] A proposed "Civil Rights Act of 1966" collapsed completely because of its fair housing provision. Mondale commented that:

A lot of [previous] civil rights [legislation] was about making the South behave and taking the teeth from George Wallace...This came right to the neighborhoods across the country. This was civil rights getting personal.:[9]

Two developments revived the bill.[9] The Kerner Commission report on the 1967 ghetto riots strongly recommended "a comprehensive and enforceable federal open housing law",[10][11] and was cited regularly by Congress members arguing for the legislation.[12] The final breakthrough came with the April 4, 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the civil unrest across the country following King's death.[13][14] On April 5, Johnson wrote a letter to the United States House of Representatives urging passage of the Fair Housing Act.[15] The Rules Committee, "jolted by the repeated civil disturbances virtually outside its door," finally ended its hearings on April 8.[16] With newly urgent attention from legislative director Joseph Califano and Democratic Speaker of the House John McCormack, the bill (which was previously stalled) passed the House by a wide margin on April 10.[13][17]



Title I: Prosecution of hate crimes[edit]

The Civil Rights Act of 1968 also enacted 18 U.S.C. § 245(b)(2), which permits federal prosecution of anyone who "willingly injures, intimidates or interferes with another person, or attempts to do so, by force because of the other person's race, color, religion or national origin"[18] because of the victim's attempt to engage in one of six types of federally protected activities, such as attending school, patronizing a public place/facility, applying for employment, acting as a juror in a state court or voting.

Persons violating this law face a fine or imprisonment of up to one year, or both. If bodily injury results or if such acts of intimidation involve the use of firearms, explosives or fire, individuals can receive prison terms of up to 10 years, while crimes involving kidnapping, sexual assault, or murder can be punishable by life in prison or the death penalty.[19]

Though sexual orientation and gender identity are also excluded from this law, they are included in a more recent Federal hate-crime law, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Title II–VII: Indian Civil Rights Act[edit]

Title VIII–IX: Fair Housing Act[edit]

Housing discrimination[edit]

Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 is commonly referred to as the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Later, the disabled and families with children were added to this list.[20] The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is charged with administering and enforcing this law.

Types of banned discrimination[edit]

The Civil Rights Act of 1968 prohibited the following forms of housing discrimination:

  • Refusal to sell or rent a dwelling to any person because of his/her race, color, religion or national origin. People with disabilities and families with children were added to the list of protected classes by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988; gender was added in 1974 (see below).
  • Discrimination against a person in the terms, conditions or privilege of the sale or rental of a dwelling.
  • Advertising the sale or rental of a dwelling indicating preference of discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin (amended by Congress as part of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 to include sex[20] and, as of 1988, people with disabilities and families with children.)
  • Coercing, threatening, intimidating, or interfering with a person's enjoyment or exercise of housing rights based on discriminatory reasons or retaliating against a person or organization that aids or encourages the exercise or enjoyment of [fair housing] rights.

Types of allowed discrimination[edit]

Lawful discrimination

Only certain kinds of discrimination are covered by fair housing laws. Landlords are not required by law to rent to any tenant who applies for a property. Landlords can select tenants based on objective business criteria, such as the applicant's ability to pay the rent and take care of the property. Landlords can lawfully discriminate against tenants with bad credit histories or low incomes, and (except in some areas) do not have to rent to tenants who will be receiving Section 8 vouchers. Landlords must be consistent in the screening, treat tenants who are inside and outside the protected classes in the same manner, and should document any legitimate business reason for not renting to a prospective tenant. As of 2010, no federal protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is provided, but these protections do exist in some localities.[citation needed]

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development has stated that buyers and renters may discriminate and may request real estate agents representing them to limit home searches to parameters that are discriminatory.[21] The primary purpose of the Fair Housing Act is to protect the buyer's (and renter's) right to seek a dwelling anywhere they choose. It protects the buyer's right to discriminate by prohibiting certain discriminatory acts by sellers, landlords, and real estate agents.

Sexual orientation and gender identity

Sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected under the Fair Housing Act; federal law in general does not protect gays and lesbians or other sexual minorities (transgender or transsexual) against discrimination in private housing. There are twenty two states that have passed laws prohibiting discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The states that have passed fair housing laws in regards to both sexual orientation and gender identity are:[when?] California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington State. In addition to the states above, the following three states prohibit discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation only: New Hampshire, New York and Wisconsin.[22] Additionally, Austin, Texas has passed a law making discrimination based on sexual orientation illegal.[23]

In 2012, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity issued a regulation to prohibit LGBT discrimination in federally assisted housing programs. The new regulations ensure that the Department's core housing programs are open to all eligible persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Title X: Civil disorders[edit]


Title I—interference with federally protected activities[edit]

Title II—rights of Indians[edit]

Title III—model code governing courts of Indian offenses[edit]

Title IV—jurisdiction over criminal and civil actions[edit]

Title V—offenses within Indian country[edit]

Title VI—employment of legal counsel[edit]

Title VII—materials relating to constitutional rights of Indians[edit]

Title VIII—fair housing[edit]

Title IX—prevention of intimidation in fair housing cases[edit]

Title X—civil obedience[edit]


In 1988, Congress voted to weaken the ability of plaintiffs to prosecute cases of Housing discrimination. But the Fair Housing Act was also amended in 1988 to allow plaintiffs' attorneys to recover attorney's fees. Additionally, the 1988 amendment added people with disabilities and families with children to the classes covered by the Act.

Case law[edit]

In the early 1990s, in Trouillon v. City of Hawthorne, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund successfully challenged an urban renewal plan on the basis of race discrimination by bringing suit under the Fair Housing Act. Previous litigation under the Act had largely been limited to discrimination in buying or renting housing.

Although he ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, Judge Davis nevertheless disputed the allegations of discrimination. He said he based his ruling in part on the city's failure to prove that the area had a higher crime rate and lower property values than other parts of the city. The city "did not act in bad faith or fraudulently", Davis wrote. It "did not discriminate against any minority or low or moderate income person and did not violate any person's Due Process, Equal Protection or other Civil Rights".[24]


U.S. states[edit]

New York State Human Rights Law
Extends the protection to marital status and age, aimed to prevent non-racial discrimination.
Section 236 and 237 of the New York State Property Law
Further extends the protection to include dwellings with children and mobile home parks. This is meant to protect renters and sellers from discriminating based on number of children in a family. Currently the Fair Housing Act protects against discrimination of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. The law applies to all types of housing, rental homes, apartments, condos and houses. The only exception to the act is when an owner of a small rental building lives in the same building he lets. Since he owns the building and also resides there, he can decide who lives there.

Violations of the Fair Housing Act[edit]

There are an estimated 2 million cases of housing discrimination each year according to HUD. The National Fair Housing Alliance, the largest fair housing non-profit in the country, estimates that number to be closer to 4 million per year, excluding instances of discrimination due to disability or familial status.[25] Housing projects have also come under fire by researchers and NGOs alike. Housing advocates Elizabeth Julian and Michael Daniel state:[26]

in addition to the inequality in the actual housing provided to low-income African-American families under the federal programs, the neighborhoods in which they receive assistance are usually subject to various adverse conditions not found in the neighborhoods surrounding the housing units in which whites receive the same assistance. These conditions include inferior city-provided facilities and services, little or no new or newer residential housing, large numbers of seriously substandard structures, noxious environmental conditions, substandard or completely absent neighborhood service facilities, high crime rates, inadequate access to job centers, and little or no investment of new capital in the area by public and private entities.

Thus, this discrimination goes beyond being poor because white housing projects receive more attention and public investment, making housing discrimination overall a racial problem.

Although several legal measures have been taken to protect all kinds of people against housing discrimination in the U.S., still the most commonly targeted and largest victims are African-Americans.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Civil Rights Act of 1968" full text, US House of Representatives website
  2. ^ "Civil Rights Act of 1866 & Civil Rights Act of 1871 – CRA – 42 U.S. Code 21 §§1981, 1981A, 1983, & 1988". findUSlaw. Retrieved October 3, 2013.
  3. ^ "42 USC § 1983 – Civil action for deprivation of rights". Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute. Retrieved October 3, 2013.
  4. ^ Michael Bronski; Ann Pellegrini; Michael Amico (October 2, 2013). "Hate Crime Laws Don't Prevent Violence Against LGBT People". The Nation. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  5. ^ Peter Babcox; Noam Chomsky; Judy Collins; Harvey Cox; Edgar Z. Friedenberg; et al. (June 19, 1969). "The Committee to Defend the Conspiracy". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
  6. ^ a b Darren Miles "Everett Dirksen’s Role in Civil Rights Legislation" Western Illinois Historical Review, Vol. I Spring 2009
  7. ^ Erin Eberlin "What is Fair Housing?"
  8. ^ Burt Folkart "James Groppi, Ex-Priest, Civil Rights Activist, Dies" The Los Angeles Times, November 05, 1985|B
  9. ^ a b c Nikole Hannah-Jones, "Living Apart: How the Government Betrayed a Landmark Civil Rights Law" Propublica, Oct. 28, 2012,
  10. ^ "Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders – Summary of Report"
  11. ^ Matthew J. Termine "Promoting Residential Integration Through the Fair Housing Act" 79 Fordham Law Review 1367 (2011).
  12. ^ "Selected U.S. Senate proceedings and debates on fair housing, 1965-1971" University of Minnesota Law Library
  13. ^ a b Kotz, Nick (2005). "14. Another Martyr". Judgment days : Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the laws that changed America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. p. 417. ISBN 0-618-08825-3.
  14. ^ "History of Fair Housing" US Department of Housing and Urban Development
  15. ^ Johnson, Lyndon Baines (April 5, 1968). "182 – Letter to the Speaker of the House Urging Enactment of the Fair Housing Bill". American Presidency Project. Retrieved July 19, 2012. We should pass the Fair Housing law when the Congress convenes next week.
  16. ^ Honorable Charles Mathias, Jr. “Fair Housing Legislation: Not an Easy Row To Hoe” US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research
  17. ^ Risen, Clay (April 2008). "The Unmaking of the President: Lyndon Johnson believed that his withdrawal from the 1968 presidential campaign would free him to solidify his legacy". Smithsonian Magazine. p. 3,5 and 6 in online version. Archived from the original on January 4, 2013. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Civil Rights Statutes". Archived from the original on September 14, 2010.
  20. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 16, 2010. Retrieved December 23, 2010.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^ letter from HUD to Jill D. Levine, Esq. dated 10-02-1996
  22. ^ "State Housing Laws and Policies" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 9, 2011. Retrieved August 25, 2011.
  23. ^ "City of Austin Equal Employment / Fair Housing Office". Retrieved September 3, 2010.
  24. ^ Kim Kowsky, TIMES, July 10, 1992
  25. ^ "Dr. King's Dream Denied: Forty Years of Failed Federal Enforcement: 2008 Fair Housing Trends Report." National Fair Housing Alliance. April 8, 2008
  26. ^ Shapiro, Steven R. (1993). Human Rights Violations in the United States: A Report on U.S. Compliance with The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Human Rights Watch. p. 23. ISBN 9781564321220. Retrieved April 9, 2018.


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