WASHINGTON – President Bush, who fared poorly among black voters in 2000, planned to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (search) on Thursday with an East Room tribute to its legacy and the people who fought for its passage.
Signed by President Lyndon Johnson (search) on July 2, 1964, after a record two-month filibuster by Southern senators, the act banned segregation in any facility offering public services and outlawed discrimination in hiring.
The act "was a landmark day for America," White House spokesman Scott McClellan (search) said. "It moved us forward to be a better nation committed to equal rights and equal opportunity for all Americans."
Bush will pay homage in the East Room "to the courageous men and women who fought long and hard to bring about this historic change," McClellan said.
In the same room where the act was signed 40 years ago, the White House was putting on display one of the pens Johnson used to sign the act and two pages of the original document.
Bush drew just 9 percent of the black vote in 2000, the lowest since Barry Goldwater (search) garnered just 6 percent after his campaign against Johnson in 1964, and has tried sporadically to beef up his support among the group.
The campaign of Democratic rival John Kerry (search) accused Bush of "back-sliding" on civil rights throughout his White House term and said the appearance was hollow, given Bush's record on civil rights.
Kerry spokesman Phil Singer said Bush had nominated judges who would roll back civil rights, "effectively closed" the Justice Department's civil rights division, and opposed affirmative action.