Wednesday, July 2

Justice, equality, and democracy

Happy 50th Anniversary to the Civil Rights Act of 1964!

(Momma is quite proud that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is only nine days older than she is.)

Civil Rights Acts have been enacted in 1866, 1871, 1875, 1957, 1960, 1964, 1968, and 1991, but the most famous of which is the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The 1964 Act is the most important because it outlawed more types of discrimination than any of the others. (Another important civil rights law that is not called a Civil Rights Act was the Voting Rights Act of 1965.)
President Barack Obama said about the 1964 Act's 50th anniversary that "few pieces of legislation have defined our national identity as distinctly, or as powerfully."

"It transformed the concepts of justice, equality, and democracy for generations to come."

The Civil Rights Act of 1866
, (14 Stat. 27-30) enacted April 9, 1866, was the first United States federal law to define United States citizenship and affirmed that all citizens were equally protected by the law. It was mainly intended to protect the civil rights of African-Americans, in the wake of the American Civil War.

The Civil Rights Act of 1871 (17 Stat. 13), empowered the President to suspend the writ of habeas corpus to combat the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and other white supremacy organizations during the Reconstruction Era. The act was passed by the 42nd United States Congress during the Reconstruction Era and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on April 20, 1871. The act was the last of three Enforcement Acts passed by the United States Congress from 1870 to 1871 during the Reconstruction Era to combat attacks upon the suffrage rights of African Americans.

The Civil Rights Act of 1875, (18 Stat. 335-337), was a United States federal law enacted during the Reconstruction Era that guaranteed African Americans equal treatment in public accommodations, public transportation, and prohibited exclusion from jury service. The Supreme Court decided the act was unconstitutional (!) in 1883.

The Civil Rights Act of 1957, (71 Stat. 634) enacted Sept. 9, 1957, primarily a voting rights bill, was also Congress's show of support for the Supreme Court's Brown decisions. The Brown v. Board of Education (1954), eventually led to the integration of public schools. Following the Supreme Court ruling, Southern whites in Virginia began a "Massive Resistance." Violence against blacks rose there and in other states, as in Little Rock, Arkansas, where that year President Dwight D. Eisenhower had ordered in federal troops to protect nine children integrating a public school, the first time the federal government had sent troops to the South since Reconstruction. There had been continued physical assaults against suspected activists and bombings of schools and churches in the South. The administration of Eisenhower proposed legislation to protect the right to vote by African Americans.

The Civil Rights Act of 1960 (74 Stat. 89) enacted May 6, 1960, was a United States federal law that established federal inspection of local voter registration polls and introduced penalties for anyone who obstructed someone's attempt to register to vote. It was designed to deal with discriminatory laws and practices in the segregated South, by which blacks had been effectively disfranchised since the late 19th and start of the 20th century. It extended the life of the Civil Rights Commission, previously limited to two years, to oversee registration and voting practices. The act was signed into law by President Eisenhower and served to eliminate certain loopholes left by the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (78 Stat. 241) was called for by President John F. Kennedy in his civil rights speech of June 11, 1963, in which he asked for legislation "giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public—hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments," as well as "greater protection for the right to vote." Kennedy delivered this speech following a series of protests from the African-American community, the most notable being the Birmingham campaign (sometimes referred to as the "Children's Crusade") in which students and children endured attacks by police dogs and high pressure fire hoses during their protests against segregation.

The Civil Rights Act of 1968, (82 Stat. 73) enacted April 11, 1968, is a landmark part of legislation in the United States that provided for equal housing opportunities regardless of race, creed, or national origin and made it a federal crime to “by force or by threat of force, injure, intimidate, or interfere with anyone … by reason of their race, color, religion, or national origin.” The Act was signed into law during the King assassination riots by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had previously signed the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act into law.

Finally (at least for now) The Civil Rights Act of 1991 was passed in response to a series of United States Supreme Court decisions which limited the rights of employees who had sued their employers for discrimination. The Act represented the first effort since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to modify some of the basic procedural and substantive rights provided by federal law in employment discrimination cases. It provided the right to trial by jury on discrimination claims and introduced the possibility of emotional distress damages, while limiting the amount that a jury could award.

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