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 Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Koreas on Edge Amid Live-fire Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid