When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law, his action honored a decades-long struggle by grassroots activists and dedicated political leaders to ensure national protection for racial equality. With the landmark agreement, Johnson fulfilled his promise, expressed in his first State of the Union speech earlier in the year, that “this session of Congress be known as the session which did more for civil rights than the last hundred sessions combined”. The historic legislation sought to eliminate racial discrimination on the federal level in broad categories including employment, education, voting, and public accommodations. The Civil Rights Act paved the way for other major federal laws outlawing discrimination in more targeted areas, such as the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 1968 Fair Housing Act.
Over half a century later, the promises of the Civil Rights Act are threatened by sustained efforts to undermine its protections for equal rights and opportunities across racial identities.
This issue of the Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities series surveys the historical evolution and current status of racial discrimination within the U.S. in several key areas: criminal justice, housing, education, labor, and society at large. Next, it looks at the current status of discrimination within these five categories, including recent legislative and political efforts to weaken equal protection along racial lines. The authors provide recommendations to reinforce the government’s responsibility to uphold anti-discriminatory protections and restore individuals’ rights to equal access and protection.
Check out other issues in our Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities Series.