Insight News

Feb 08th

MUL commemorates Civil Rights Act of 1964

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lyndon johnson signing civil rights actThis year marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the landmark legislation that set the stage for the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

The Civil Rights Act has significance for economic justice because the act bans discrimination on the basis of sex, as well as race in hiring, promoting, and firing of workers, making it unlawful for an employer to "fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions or privileges or employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." Title VII of the Civil Rights Act created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to implement the law.

Passage of the Act placed the United States in a new era of progress. The Act ended "Jim Crow" laws, which had been upheld by the Supreme Court in the 1896 case Plessy v. Ferguson. Plessy v. Ferguson held that racial segregation and "separate but equal" was constitutional. The Civil Rights Act provided for fundamental civil rights for all.

image001Until the passage of the Civil Rights Act, employers could run ads for jobs that would say "no Negroes" or "no women" need apply. Regardless of their formal education, many people of color were not able to obtain high-paying jobs in law, business or education. There were entire categories of employment inaccessible to blacks, Latinos, or women.

In the months following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, President Lyndon B. Johnson committed to bringing Kennedy's vision of a civil rights law to fruition. Johnson enlisted civil rights leaders, including Whitney M. Young, president of the National Urban League; Roy Wilkins, president of the NAACP; Martin Luther King, SCLC president; and James Farmer, CORE founder and president as allies to assist with pushing the legislation through Congress. There were other supporters including journalists, business men, faith leaders that supported the legislation.

The Civil Rights Movement was in full swing and shifted the perception of inequality in the country. Many were moved by the courage of civil rights activists throughout the South. At the same time, many were horrified by the beatings, bombings, water cannons, and lynchings. Freedom Riders and college students staged lunch counter sit-ins and peaceful demonstrations to make a point that it was time for Congress to act.

The Minneapolis Urban League will be commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act on June 19th during its annual Gateway to Opportunity Gala, being held at the Hilton Minneapolis. Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, will be the keynote speaker.

"The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is paramount in the history of the United States. The 50th Anniversary is significant because it reminds us that this legislation changed the course of this country," said Scott Gray, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Urban League. "We are commemorating this important legislation because it was won through a collective effort of civil rights leaders, legislators, activists, and regular folks. Many people endured a lot for us to get to where we are today and although there has been great progress, our challenge is how we continue to press forward so that all can enjoy economic freedom."

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