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

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    Party's presumptive presidential nominee, her vice presidential pick deliver optimistic message in Florida as they campaign for first time together

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora