Civil Rights Act Passed Only 56 Years Ago
Fifty-six years ago on September 9th, our nation passed the original Civil Rights Act of 1957, primarily a voting rights bill. This was one of the cornerstones of the Civil Rights movement. On June 11, 1963, President John F. Kennedy called for a new bill during his televised civil rights speech; by this time, the Civil Rights movement was in full swing.
Recently, the 50th celebration of the March on Washington was held to commemorate the event that was actually entitled “The March on Washington for JOBS and Freedom”. Though all of the Civil Rights Acts that were passed during the Civil Rights movement were about equality; a major proponent in the March on Washington was for equality in the workplace, aiming for a law that barred discrimination in public and private hiring.
While Kennedy’s televised civil rights speech and the March on Washington may have helped propel the movement, it was President Lyndon B. Johnson who aided the passageway of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, making racial discrimination and segregation illegal. As a result, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was formed and could/can prosecute employers that discriminate in opposition of applicants or employees.
According to the EEOC – Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
(a) Employer practices: It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer –
(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or
(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
During the recent 50th celebration of the March on Washington, Georgia’s very own and the only surviving speaker from the 1963 march, Rep. John Lewis, said the harshest days of the civil rights struggle “for the most part are gone.” But, that the struggle for a more perfect America goes on. Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States, said “Our focus has broadened to include the cause of women, of Latinos, of Asian Americans, of lesbians, of gays, of people with disabilities. And of countless others across this great country who still yearn for equality…”