Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed into law the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. With the stroke of a pen, the federal government blotted out “separate but equal,” put the power of the Department of Justice behind desegregation of public schools, and laid the foundation for racial, religious and gender equality in the workplace.
A half-century later, the Civil Rights Act still stands as both a signal achievement and a reminder of the work that lies ahead for the attainment of true and lasting equality. The law dismantled the edifice of “separate but equal” in its most odious form.
Today, the notion of a “Colored Only” drinking fountain seems alien and unthinkable. The Civil Rights Act changed more than the law; it changed attitudes. The recent downfall of L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling demonstrates that the strongest enforcer of civil rights remains the court of public opinion.
In spite of the great progress that has already been achieved and the potential for more, the promise of the Civil Rights Act has yet to be fully realized. The law authorized the Attorney General to sue public schools for failing to heed the charge of Brown v. Board of Education to desegregate “with all deliberate speed.” Today, an estimated 74 percentof African-American students and 79 percent of Latino students attend majority-minority schools.
Education equity remains largely elusive. Less than one-third of schools serving the most African American and Latino students offer calculus. One-quarter of those schools do not even offer algebra II, 60 percent have no physics classes, and one-third do not offer chemistry classes of any kind. Sixty years after Brown and fifty years after the Civil Rights Act, the work to close the education equity gap continues.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act required employers to provide male and female workers equal pay for equal work. But a substantial pay gap persists.
For members of the LGBT community, who are not explicitly included in the Civil Rights Act, monumental change is afoot. Today, in most states, workers can still be fired or denied a job simply for being gay.
Dr. King famously said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” The Civil Rights Act changed the face of the nation, bending the arc sharply on July 2, 1964.
But much work remains. On the 50-year anniversary of its passage, let us rededicate ourselves to the task of building a fairer, more just society
From Thoughts on the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, Abraham H. Foxman, National Director, Anti-Defamation League
Pray often the words of Paul: “For there is no partiality with God.”
Examine yourself for inequalities that you accept as “the norm.” Do you see racisim, sexism, prejudice and unequal treatment hidden under verbiage in our political process and judgments? Speak out and/or support groups who work for equal rights for all.
The rich and the poor have a common bond, The Lord is the maker of them all.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Today, we are committed to a worldwide struggle to promote and protect the rights of all who wish to be free. … It ought to to be possible, in short, for every American to enjoy the privileges of being American without regard to his race or his color.
John F. Kennedy
This is how it works. Everything is connected. Every choice matters. Every person is vital, and valuable, and worthy of respect.
This Civil Rights Act is a challenge to all of us to go to work in our communities and our states, in our homes and in our hearts, to eliminate the last vestiges of injustice in our beloved country. So tonight I urge every public official, every religious leader, every business and professional man, every working man, every housewife — I urge every American — to join in this effort to bring justice and hope to all our people, and to bring peace to our land
Lyndon B. Johnson
Because of the Civil Rights movement, new doors of opportunity and education swung open for everybody … Not just for blacks and whites, but also women and Latinos; and Asians and Native Americans; and gay Americans and Americans with a disability. They swung open for you, and they swung open for me. And that’s why I’m standing here today—because of those efforts, because of that legacy.
We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.
One individual can begin a movement that turns the tide of history. Martin Luther King in the civil rights movement, Mohandas Ganhi in India, Nelson Mandela in South Africa are examples of people standing up with courage and non-violence to bring about needed changes.
The civil rights movement was based on faith. Many of us who were participants in this movement saw our involvement as an extension of our faith. We saw ourselves doing the work of the Almighty. Segregation and racial discrimination were not in keeping with our faith, so we had to do something.
The greatest movement for social justice our country has ever known is the civil rights movement and it was totally rooted in a love ethic.