The Rev. Martin Luther King was present when President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964. Prohibiting discrimination of all kinds based on race, color, religion or national origin, it was the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction.
A year later President Johnson asserted that, as significant as that law was, laws alone are not enough to remedy discrimination. Perhaps better than any others, his words define affirmative action:
“You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: ‘Now, you are free to go where you want, do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please.’ You do not take a man who for years has been hobbled by chains, liberate him, bring him to the starting line of a race, saying, ‘You are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe you have been completely fair. This is the next and more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity, not just legal equity but human ability, not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and as a result.”