News / USA

50th Anniversary of Civil Rights Act Remembered

50th Anniversary of Civil Rights Act Rememberedi
X
Chris Simkins
June 25, 2014 11:29 AM
A milestone in American history is being remembered this week as the nation marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (July 2, 1964). The landmark federal legislation outlawed racial discrimination and ended segregation in schools, the workplace and at public accommodations. As VOA's Chris Simkins takes a look at the steps that led to passage of the Civil Rights Act, which marked a turning point in American history.
Chris Simkins

A milestone in American history is being remembered this week as the nation marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (July 2, 1964).  The landmark federal legislation outlawed racial discrimination and ended segregation in schools, the workplace and at public accommodations. 

In 1963, Civil rights demonstrations in the U.S. south turned violent.  President John Kennedy called the situation  "a moral crisis".  

"This is not a sectional issue. Difficulties over segregation and discrimination exist in every city, in every state in the union, producing in many cities a rising tide of discontent that threatens the public safety," Kennedy said.

Historical meeting

President Kennedy met civil rights leader Martin Luther King to discuss ending the demonstrations.  The meeting was arranged by Kennedy advisor, Harris Wofford.

"Martin Luther King deliberately said part of what non-violent direct action does is it creates crisis that people in power, whether it is government or corporations or others, they have to listen to," said Wofford.

President Kennedy responded in a nationally televised address.

"In too many communities in too many parts of the country wrongs are inflicted on Negro citizens and there are no remedies of law. Unless the Congress acts, their only remedy is the street. I am therefore asking the Congress to enact legislation giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities that are open to the public," he said.

The Civil Rights Act outlaws racial segregation in schools, the workplace and at public accommodations such as restaurants. The legislation faced strong opposition from mostly white southern lawmakers who tried to block its passage.

Right conditions

Harris Wofford said the ongoing demonstrations and President Kennedy's assassination created the conditions for passing the Civil Rights Act.

"I don't think it would have necessarily have passed if he [President Kennedy] had not been killed and a wave of sympathy and understanding sweep the majority of the people in the United States," he said.

FILE - U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson holds the signed document of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as he chats with Sen. Everett Dirksen, R-Ill., in the President's Room in Washington, D.C., Aug. 6, 1965.
FILE - U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson holds the signed document of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as he chats with Sen. Everett Dirksen, R-Ill., in the President's Room in Washington, D.C., Aug. 6, 1965.

July 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law.  Former Congressman Ron Dellums said it is a crowning achievement for so many African Americans.

"The Civil Rights Act was a very significant event in American history.  I maintain it was a time when the people in this country actually bent the political process to their will," said Dellums.

Reaping the benefits

Five decades later, Jack Jones reaps the benefits of the anti-discrimination laws. He grew up in the segregated south and was denied opportunities, but went on to run a small nationwide company.

"I have absolutely no doubt that the Civil Rights Act changed America.  It changed for all of us, it changed mostly for us, the black people, but it also sought out to make this country a better country," he said.

Activists say the support of so many who demonstrated for freedom and justice in the 1960s helped make the Civil Rights Act a reality and a cornerstone of racial justice.

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid