The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (CRA '64) in the United States was landmark legislation. The original purpose of the Bill was to protect black men from job (and other) discrimination, but at the last minute in an attempt to kill the bill, it was expanded to include protection for women. As a result it formed a political impetus for feminism.
CRA '64 transformed American society. It prohibited discrimination in public facilities, in government, and in employment. This simple statement understates the large shift in American society that occurred as a result. The Jim Crow laws in the South were finally swept away, and it was illegal to compel segregation of the races in schools, housing, or hiring. Although initially enforcement powers were weak, they grew over the years, and such later programs as affirmative action were made possible by the Civil Rights Act.
See also: Civil Rights Act