Last week marked the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act. In the defiance of threats from deadly violence to the more subtle but insidious forms of voter intimidation and denial of access to the polls, vast numbers of citizens fought tirelessly to pass and then implement the Civil Rights Act. Facing violent opposition–beatings, bombings, arrest, murder–a movement devoted to seeking equal justice under the law for all people fought and won an extraordinary victory.
The passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 set off waves of violence and intimidation as many white communities resisted the implementation of the law. Perhaps the most infamous incident of this era was the 1964 murder of three civil rights workers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. ACLC founder John Rosenberg, who worked as a lawyer for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice from 1962-1970, was part of the team of lawyers who sought and won murder convictions for their killers.
We honor the courage and dedication of those who risked so much to fight for a more just nation, and we thank those who continue the fight to this day.
For an in depth look at the Act itself with comments about the process, content and legacy, check out National Public Radio’s annotated version of the Civil Rights Act.
And to read more about the continued struggle for the goals of the civil rights movement, the Lexington Herald-Leader and LA Times (among many others) have reflections on the history and legacy of the Act.