Yesterday marked the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act into law, and this post is going to be chock full of information and links. First up, this story fromHuffPo which shows far we haven’t come:
Next up, a little history behind the Civil Rights Act from The Washington Post:
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was not the first attempt by Congress to pass sweeping legislation aimed at ending discrimination.
According to Congresslink.org, legislation failed in the House and Senate every year from 1945 until 1957, when Congress passed, and President Dwight Eisenhower signed, a law allowing federal prosecutors to seek court injunctions to stop voting rights interference. That law, the Civil Rights Act of 1957, also created the Justice Department’s civil rights section, and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, then a Democrat, filibustered the bill for 24 hours and 18 minutes, the longest one-man filibuster on record.
That law was followed by the Civil Rights Act of 1960, which introduced penalties for obstructing or attempting to obstruct someone’s attempt to register to vote or actually vote, and for obstructing federal court orders in school discrimination cases.
President John F. Kennedy first suggested the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in a televised speech from the Oval Office. He said he would ask Congress “to make a commitment it has not fully made in this century to the proposition that race has no place in American life or law.” Kennedy was assassinated before the bill could become law.
Johnson, in addressing a joint session of Congress on Nov. 27, 1963, said “no memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy’s memory” than passing the civil rights bill.
WOMEN TOO …
Rep. Howard Smith, D-Va., chairman of the House Rules Committee, advocated adding the word “sex” behind “religion” to the original bill to address gender equality. “I do not think it can do any harm to this legislation; maybe it can do some good,” he said. Some suggested that Smith, a segregationist Democrat, was actually attempting to kill the bill; He said his intention was to ensure white women got the same protection.
Segregationists and conservative Democrats supported Smith’s amendment. Northern Republicans — who supported the bill — opposed the amendment out of fear that it could kill the entire bill. One woman lawmaker, Rep. Edith Green, D-Ore., agreed, saying it was more important to secure rights for blacks first.
“For every discrimination that has been made against a woman in this country, there has been ten times as much discrimination against the Negro,” Green said.
Rep. Martha Griffiths, D-Mich., opposed efforts to take women out. “A vote against this amendment today by a white man is a vote against his wife, or his widow, or his daughter or his sister,” she said.
The House approved the amendment.
MARTIN and MALCOLM
Because of the Civil Rights Act, two civil rights activists with very different approaches, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, had their first and only face-to-face encounter. On March 26, 1964, King and Malcolm X were both in Washington for the Senate debate on the Civil Rights Act. According to Peter Louis Goldman, author of a book about Malcolm X, said the Muslim activist slipped into the back row of one of King’s news conferences. When King left by one door, Malcolm X left by another and intercepted him.
“Well, Malcolm, good to see you,” King said.
“Good to see you,” Malcolm X replied.
They were photographed smiling warmly and shaking hands. As they parted, Goldman said, Malcolm X remarked jokingly: “Now you’re going to get investigated.”
In his autobiography, King said of the encounter: “Circumstances didn’t enable me to talk with him for more than a minute.”
From The Baltimore Sun, some very awesome images of the Civil Rights Movement in Maryland:
Paul Robeson (second from left) is joined by Dr. John E. T. Camper, Chairman of the Citizens Committee for Justice (fourth from left) and—we believe—a young A. Robert Kauffman of Interracial Fellowship Youth (fifth from left). (Paul S. Henderson, March 1948, Maryland Historical Society)The protest of Ford’s Theatre, which began in 1946 because it required African-Americans to sit in the balcony, lasted seven years and ultimately succeeded. Many of the popular plays during this time bypassed Baltimore because producers and actors would not abide by the theater’s segregation policy. Others, such as actor/opera singer Paul Robeson (second from left), came to Baltimore specifically to protest. The Ford’s demonstrations were led by the Jackson and Mitchell families, NAACP, and Interracial Fellowship Youth (with A. Robert Kauffman as president, possibly fifth from left) and benefited from celebrity power from the likes of Robeson and Bayard Rustin. In 1953, Governor Theodore McKeldin, who served as Mayor of Baltimore before and after he held the office of governor, received the Hollander Foundation Award for his leadership and particularly for his help in integrating Ford’s Theatre.
Baltimore Sun photographer Dick Childress finds members of Baltimore CORE smoking and chatting on a sidewalk, possibly during a demonstration. While we don’t know the exact date and most of the men are not identified in this picture, the two men in the center are Walter Samuel Brooks (left), Baltimore CORE director, and Daniel Gant (right).