Signed only seven days after the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot to death, the Act—which also included an “Indian Bill of Rights” to extend protections to Native Americans—provides for equal housing opportunities regardless of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin.
In his remarks before signing the bill, Johnson decried King’s assassination as well as “the looting and the burning that defiles our democracy.” He celebrated the victories of earlier legislation, but proclaimed that there was more to be done, and that it was now the time for action:
Now, with this bill, the voice of justice speaks again.
It proclaims that fair housing for all—all human beings who live in this country—is now a part of the American way of life.
We all know that the roots of injustice run deep. But violence cannot redress a solitary wrong or remedy a single unfairness […]
So, I would appeal to my fellow Americans by saying, the only real road to progress for free people is through the process of law and that is the road that America will travel […]
This afternoon, as we gather here in this historic room in the White House, I think we can all take some heart that democracy’s work is being done. In the Civil Rights Act of 1968 America does move forward and the bell of freedom rings out a little louder.
The Civil Rights Act of 1968 thus significantly expanded on previous civil rights legislation and marked a huge step in eliminating the discrimination in one of the most basic elements of life: finding a home.
To read the full text of the Title VIII, the Fair Housing Act, click here.
To read the full text of President Johnson’s remarks, click here.
To see a photograph of Johnson signing the Act, click here.
Click here to listen to audio recordings from conversations between President Johnson and Martin Luther King, Jr.
For a comprehensive list of civil rights legislation, click here.