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July 2, 2014 0

From the Archives: ADL & the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Part 2

Civil_rights_leaders_WH_meeting_22_June_1963

Abbie Rowe. White House Pho­tographs. John F. Kennedy Pres­i­den­tial Library and Museum, Boston Civil rights lead­ers pose with Attor­ney Gen­eral Robert F. Kennedy and Vice Pres­i­dent Lyn­don B. John­son at a meet­ing at the White House on 22 June 1963. ADL National Direc­tor Ben­jamin Epstein stands to the right of Rev. Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. and Attor­ney Gen­eral Robert F. Kennedy

In Jan­u­ary 1964, two months after Pres­i­dent Kennedy’s death, ADL released its annual report on Con­gress and civil rights, declar­ing that because of Pres­i­dent Johnson’s “unmatched knowl­edge” of Con­gress, “it is now more pos­si­ble to pass” the Civil Rights Act that Pres­i­dent Kennedy had intro­duced in a tele­vised speech the pre­vi­ous year.

On Jan­u­ary 31 Sen­a­tor Edward M. Kennedy, in his first pub­lic appear­ance in New York since the death of his brother, addressed the 51st annual meet­ing of ADL. Sen­a­tor Kennedy told the audi­ence that the civil rights bill “will pass the House unweak­ened” and that only a fil­i­buster could stop a Sen­ate major­ity “ready and will­ing to vote for it.” Ten days later, the House passed the bill by a vote of 290 to 130 and sent it to the Sen­ate, where it met a filibuster.

Soon after the fil­i­buster began, Sen­a­tors Abra­ham Ribi­coff and Jacob Jav­its received ADL’s 1964 Human Rights Award. They spoke about the bill in their accep­tance speech dur­ing the April 9 cer­e­mony, express­ing con­cern about the “‘so-called white back­lash’ on civil rights in the North” and warn­ing that “pas­sage of the Civil Rights Bill would solve no prob­lems unless ‘the ulti­mate respon­si­bil­ity for civil rights’ is accepted by indi­vid­ual Americans.’”

In late April, ADL National Chair­man Dore Schary announced plans to con­vene a meet­ing of 120 Jew­ish busi­ness, pro­fes­sional, and civil lead­ers from all over the United States “to sound an alarm that time was run­ning out” and “to urge that the Bill then under debate be passed with­out weak­en­ing dele­tions and amend­ments.” Said Schary of the Wash­ing­ton, DC, event:

“This meet­ing in the nation’s cap­i­tal is an all-out effort by a group of lead­ing cit­i­zens to aid their coun­try in what they con­sider to be the most crit­i­cal moment in one of the gravest crises in the past cen­tury. They believe that if the Civil Rights Act is not passed soon, the nation faces dan­ger­ous dis­or­der in the com­ing sum­mer months.”

The group, com­prised of judges, munic­i­pal offi­cials, per­form­ers in the arts, finan­cial and indus­trial lead­ers from 30 states, first con­ferred with Admin­is­tra­tion and Sen­ate spokes­men, and then called or met with their home-state leg­is­la­tors. The group also vis­ited Arling­ton National Ceme­tery to “pay their respects to the mem­ory of Pres­i­dent Kennedy and leave a flo­ral spray at the graveside.”

ADL National Direc­tor Ben­jamin R. Epstein later recalled the meet­ing in Not the Work of a Day, not­ing its suc­cess: “[B]y jiminy, it worked, and it was because it was an intel­li­gent approach to lob­by­ing, a per­fectly legit­i­mate way of achiev­ing a pur­pose in a demo­c­ra­tic soci­ety.” Min­nesota Sen­a­tor Hubert Humphrey wrote to say: “I am for­ever grate­ful … for the ADL’s visit to Wash­ing­ton on behalf of the Civil Rights Bill. The busi­ness lead­ers who gave of their valu­able time … per­formed an indis­pen­si­ble ser­vice. I know from con­ver­sa­tions with many Sen­a­tors that their vis­its were truly effective.”

To be continued…

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July 2, 2014 0

From the Archives: ADL & the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Part 1

News­pa­pers head­lined accu­sa­tions of police bru­tal­ity. Steel hel­mets became stan­dard daily equip­ment for police­men in a grow­ing net­work of cities besieged by riots … This was the long, hot sum­mer civil rights experts had warned against – a long, hot sum­mer that threat­ened to become the Amer­i­can year-round cli­mate. – ADL Bul­letin, Octo­ber 1964

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Pres­i­dent Kennedy addresses the nation on civil rights, June 11, 1963

It was in the midst of this “long, hot sum­mer” that Con­gress passed and Pres­i­dent John­son signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a sweep­ing bill that pro­hib­ited seg­re­ga­tion in pub­lic places and required deseg­re­ga­tion of pub­lic schools. A tumul­tuous period of debate and fil­i­buster in Con­gress was the last hur­dle in the long and ardu­ous process that pre­ceded its passage.

Com­mit­ted to fight­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion since its found­ing, ADL had sup­ported Con­gress’ pas­sage of the first fed­eral civil rights leg­is­la­tion in over eighty years, the Civil Rights Act of 1957. As plans for a new bill began to take shape, ADL joined a coali­tion of civil rights and reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions that fer­vently lob­bied leg­is­la­tors to pass it.

On June 11, 1963, just two months after not­ing ADL’s “tire­less pur­suit of equal­ity of treat­ment for all Amer­i­cans” dur­ing his address at ADL’s 50th annual meet­ing, Pres­i­dent Kennedy addressed the day’s events, which included a dra­matic stand­off with Alabama Gov­er­nor George Wal­lace, and intro­duced the Civil Rights Act in a tele­vised speech. In a last ditch effort to pre­vent the deseg­re­ga­tion of the Uni­ver­sity of Alabama, Gov­er­nor Wal­lace placed him­self in the door of Fos­ter Audi­to­rium to block the enroll­ment of two African Amer­i­can stu­dents, Vivian Mal­one and James Hood. Gov­er­nor Wal­lace relented after a pres­i­den­tial procla­ma­tion com­manded him and any­one else “engaged in unlaw­ful obstruc­tions of jus­tice” to step aside, and Mal­one and Hood suc­cess­fully enrolled in the sum­mer session.

Over the course of that year Amer­i­cans wit­nessed increas­ing momen­tum in the civil rights move­ment and blood shed, includ­ing the assas­si­na­tion of Pres­i­dent Kennedy in November.

To be continued…

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July 2, 2014 0

Thoughts on the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

 

by Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared in The Huff­in­g­ton Post on July 2, 2014

Fifty years ago today, Pres­i­dent Lyn­don Baines John­son signed into law the land­mark Civil Rights Act of 1964. With the stroke of a pen, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment blot­ted out “sep­a­rate but equal,” put the power of the Depart­ment of Jus­tice behind deseg­re­ga­tion of pub­lic schools, and laid the foun­da­tion for racial, reli­gious and gen­der equal­ity in the workplace.

Despite the enor­mity of the change it ush­ered in, Rev. Dr. Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. hailed the leg­is­la­tion not as a vic­tory but as the “dawn of a new hope” and a “cool serene breeze in a long hot sum­mer” of racial oppres­sion. Dr. King rec­og­nized that the law did not mark the end of the strug­gle, but the begin­ning of fun­da­men­tal change.

A half-century later, the Civil Rights Act still stands as both a sig­nal achieve­ment and a reminder of the work that lies ahead for the attain­ment of true and last­ing equal­ity. The law dis­man­tled the edi­fice of “sep­a­rate but equal” in its most odi­ous form.

Today, the notion of a “Col­ored Only” drink­ing foun­tain seems alien and unthink­able. The Civil Rights Act changed more than the law; it changed atti­tudes. The recent down­fall of L.A. Clip­pers owner Don­ald Ster­ling demon­strates that the strongest enforcer of civil rights remains the court of pub­lic opinion.

In spite of the great progress that has already been achieved and the poten­tial for more, the promise of the Civil Rights Act has yet to be fully real­ized. The law autho­rized the Attor­ney Gen­eral to sue pub­lic schools for fail­ing to heed the charge of Brown v. Board of Edu­ca­tion to deseg­re­gate “with all delib­er­ate speed.” Today, an esti­mated 74 per­cent of African-American stu­dents and 79 per­cent of Latino stu­dents attend majority-minority schools.

Edu­ca­tion equity remains largely elu­sive. Less than one-third of schools serv­ing the most African Amer­i­can and Latino stu­dents offer cal­cu­lus. One-quarter of those schools do not even offer alge­bra II, 60 per­cent have no physics classes, and one-third do not offer chem­istry classes of any kind. Sixty years after Brown and fifty years after the Civil Rights Act, the work to close the edu­ca­tion equity gap continues.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act required employ­ers to pro­vide male and female work­ers equal pay for equal work. But a sub­stan­tial pay gap per­sists. The first piece of leg­is­la­tion signed into law by Pres­i­dent Obama–the Lilly Led­bet­ter Fair Pay Act–makes it eas­ier for women to secure back-pay when they suf­fer years of unequal com­pen­sa­tion. In April, how­ever, another bill would have banned com­pa­nies from retal­i­at­ing against women for seek­ing equal pay. It was blocked in the Sen­ate. And, in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, the Supreme Court made it harder for female work­ers to band together to sue their employer for unequal pay, mak­ing it nearly impos­si­ble for women to wage costly lit­i­ga­tion bat­tles on their own.

For mem­bers of the LGBT com­mu­nity, who are not explic­itly included in the Civil Rights Act, mon­u­men­tal change is afoot. Today, in most states, work­ers can still be fired or denied a job sim­ply for being gay. But in the com­ing days, we hope and expect Pres­i­dent Obama will amend an exist­ing exec­u­tive order bar­ring employ­ment dis­crim­i­na­tion by fed­eral con­trac­tors to add sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and gen­der iden­tity to the list of pro­tected categories–a move that will extend work­place pro­tec­tions to approx­i­mately twenty per­cent of the nation’s work­force. The order could pave the way for leg­is­la­tion that would pro­hibit employ­ers from dis­crim­i­nat­ing against LGBT individuals.

Dr. King famously said, “The arc of the moral uni­verse is long, but it bends towards jus­tice.” The Civil Rights Act changed the face of the nation, bend­ing the arc sharply on July 2, 1964.

But much work remains. On the 50-year anniver­sary of its pas­sage, let us reded­i­cate our­selves to the task of build­ing a fairer, more just society.

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