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Delaware and the 1964 Civil Rights Act

In the years leading up to the passage of the Civil Right Act, racial segregation and discrimination were common in Delaware, as elsewhere in the country.  Delaware’s two Republican Senators, J. Caleb Boggs and John J. Williams voted to approve the law, as did the lone House member from the state, Harris McDowell, a Democrat.  On June 10, 1964, Senator Williams cast the decisive, 67th vote that ended a Senate filibuster, thus bringing the bill to a vote in the full Senate, where it passed.  The House approved the Senate version of the bill, and President Lyndon B. Johnson signed it into law on July 2, 1964.  The passage of the Act brought about the first meaningful civil rights legislation since the end of Reconstruction.  Senator Williams received numerous letters from constituents, both for and against the bill.  Soon after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the last segregated, one-room school houses were closed in Delaware.  In addition, the Delaware chapter of the NAACP called upon hospitals and other institutions to offer more opportunities to African Americans in the areas of employment and housing.  Newspaper reports from the period reflect some of the tensions and changes that were taking place in the state.


  1. Telegram to Senator John J. Williams, June 9, 1964; Senator John J. Williams papers; gift of Mrs. Elsie Steele Williams

  2. Telegram to Senator John J. Williams, June 19, 1964. Senator John J. Williams papers; gift of Mrs. Elsie Steele Williams

  3. Blueprint of Colored School site, Newark Delaware, 1920. Wilbur T. Wilson Map collection; gift of the Estate of Wilbur T. Wilson



  4. Photograph of students in front of the Iron Hill School, Newark Delaware, 1919.  Iron Hill Museum Oral History Collection



  5. “One Room Schoolhouse…Still Alive in Sussex.” Morning News Wilmington, June 8, 1964. Littleton and Jane Mitchell Papers; gift of Philip Vann Mitchell
  6. Letter to Senator John J. Williams, June 25, 1964. Senator John J. Williams papers; gift of Mrs. Elsie Steele Williams
  7. Letter to Senator John J. Williams, July 19, 1964.  Senator John J. Williams papers; gift of Mrs. Elsie Steele Williams
  8. Photograph of Senators John J. Williams and J. Caleb Boggs, August 12, 1964. Senator John J. Williams papers; gift of Mrs. Elsie Steele Williams



  9. Description of moment when Senator John J. Williams votes to end the Senate filibuster, June 10, 1964. United States Senate website
  10. “Integration Plans of 6 Districts Ok’d.” Morning News, Wilmington, Delaware, August 10, 1965. Littleton and Jane Mitchell Papers; gift of Philip Vann Mitchell

  11.  Ralph S. Moyed

    “Three Downstate Hospital Act Against Bias.” Morning News, Wilmington Delaware, November 10, 1965. Littleton and Jane Mitchell Papers; gift of Philip Vann Mitchell




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02/26/14

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