The Department of Justice announced July1 that it will be co-hosting the historic program and celebration, “The 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Preserving Progress, Charting the Future,” with Howard University on July 15, 2014. Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2, 1964, the groundbreaking act outlawed discriminatory voting requirements and segregation in schools, employment and places of public accommodation. Attorney General Eric Holder has made protecting civil rights a top priority of his administration of the Department of Justice.
The long road to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was paved with the footsteps of countless ordinary Americans and well-known civil rights leaders who marched, held sit-ins, staged boycotts and led freedom rides to end segregation and discrimination. The call for comprehensive civil rights legislation gained momentum in 1963, as civil rights activists continued to organize peaceful demonstrations throughout the country. After hundreds of nonviolent protestors were met with police violence and arrest in Birmingham, Alabama, President John F. Kennedy delivered a nationally televised speech voicing his support for comprehensive civil rights legislation. After President Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson made a commitment to pursue passage of civil rights legislation. And after the longest debate in senate history, the Civil Rights Act was finally passed and signed into law, becoming the first of many legislative victories over the next 50 years that have been critical tools for protecting civil rights.
The speakers and participants at the 50th anniversary program at Howard University will honor the strides that have been made in the journey for equal rights, and look to the work that remains to fully realize that promise. In addition to Howard University Interim President Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick and the keynote address by Attorney General Holder, the program will include remarks from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, who lead two of the Department of Justice’s key government partners in enforcing the Civil Rights Act. Ambassador Andrew Young, former leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference will also deliver remarks. Charlayne Hunter-Gault will moderate a roundtable discussion titled
“The Impact of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” featuring civil rights movement veterans and scholars including Howard University School of Law Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Lisa A. Crooms-Robinson, Julian Bond, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, Todd Purdum and Helen Zia. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton will deliver the event’s closing remarks.
The event will include a temporary display of original pages from the Civil Rights Act of 1964, on loan by the United States Archives. The display will be available for viewing prior to the program beginning at 9 a.m. in the lower level of Cramton Auditorium.
A limited number of tickets for the celebration are available to the public, which will also include performances by the Howard University Choir and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C., as well as readings and videos commemorating the act. Tickets are available, at the Cramton Auditorium Box Office on the Campus of Howard University on a first come, first served basis.