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

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid