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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid