There are some things in history that are lost and forgotten and some that are purposely and strategically not brought up in order to influence people. Today is the anniversary of one of those things. On June 10th, 1964, members of the Democratic Party ended their filibuster of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Before I go any further, I want to make crystal clear what the word ‘filibuster’ means. To filibuster something is, in the simplest of definitions, to block a bill from being voted on while it is in front of the legislature. The formal definition says it is ‘an action such as a prolonged speech that obstructs progress in a legislative assembly while not technically contravening the required procedures’. Although there are strict rules that go into a filibuster, essentially it comes down to just standing up and talking for a long time. For example, think of Leslie’s filibuster on roller skates in Parks and Rec, or Ted Cruz reading his girls a bedtime story from the Senate floor while filibustering a bill.
It is an extreme course of action that is a desperate attempt to stop a piece of legislation-why else would some past filibuster speeches have lasted almost 24 hours? However, the length of the Democrats’ filibuster against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an absolute record breaker-they filibustered for 57 DAYS. It wasn’t a rogue politician, it wasn’t for a couple of days- powerful members of the Democratic caucus* tried to block this bill from coming to a vote on the Senate floor for almost TWO MONTHS before ending the filibuster on June 10th, 1964.
The leader of this filibuster was Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV). His gateway into politics was being a member of and recruiter for the Ku Klux Klan. He stood and spoke against the bill on the Senate floor for over 14 hours. He was known to members of the Democratic Party as the ‘conscience of the Senate.’
*Editor’s note: The article originally said the “entire party” (meaning Democrats) tried to block the Civil Rights Act from coming to a vote. That is historically inaccurate. We apologize for the error. The article has been edited for accuracy.