On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the most significant civil rights achievements in U.S. history. This new law made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; It ended school, work and public facility discrimination, and barred unequal application of voter registration requirements.
Five hours after Congress approved the law, Johnson signed it, then turned and handed pens to various key figures in getting the legislation passed, including Attorney General Robert Kennedy. He went on to address the country in a nationally televised address, saying the law was a challenge for the United States to "eliminate the last vestiges of injustice in our beloved country."
In observing the law's 50th anniversary Wednesday, President Barack Obama said "few pieces of legislation have defined our national identity as distinctly, or as powerfully."
"It transformed the concepts of justice, equality, and democracy for generations to come," Obama said.
Here are five things to know about the Civil Rights Act of 1964: