Howard University and Justice Department Co-Hosts Historic Celebration of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
WASHINGTON (July 17, 2014) - Howard University collaborated with the Department of Justice on Tuesday, July 15, to commemorate the signing 50 years ago of the Civil Rights Act.
Students, advocates and public officials gathered in Cramton Auditorium to take note of the progress that has been made towards inclusion and racial equality since the landmark legislation was signed into law on July 2, 1964. The commemoration also posed the question: Where do we as a nation go from here? It served as a reminder that the promise of equality has yet to be fully realized and there is more work to be done.
Attorney General Eric Holder called on “Congress to renew the spirit of the Civil Rights Act,” referencing the many discriminatory practices that minorities, women and members of the LGBT community continue to face in the workplace, in the housing and lending markets and in accessibility to education.
“Although we can be proud of the progress that has been made, even within our own lifetimes, we cannot accept these advances as an indication that our work is complete, that our long journey has been successfully concluded,” he said.
Ambassador Andrew Young, an influential civil rights activist who was a colleague and close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., also spoke, saying that only two-thirds of a promise had been fulfilled to “redeem the soul of America from the triple evils of racism, war and poverty.”
Young insisted that poverty still plays a major role in the racial injustice that exists today and challenged audience members to encourage “leadership for a global vision of a global economy that feeds the hungry, that clothes the naked, that heals the sick, that sets at liberty those who are oppressed. I hope somehow from some of your minds and souls and spirits, that kind of economy might emerge in our lifetime.”
Others spoke vividly of the racial climate and the violence that occurred at that time, as Blacks and other Americans marched, protested, sat in and gave their lives for freedom and justice. Historic video and audio footage played throughout the commemoration provided powerful reminders of the peril that many faced during the Civil Rights Movement. Original pages from the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were loaned to the University by the United States Archives and were on site for viewing during the celebration.
The event included a roundtable discussion, “The Impact of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” featuring civil rights activists, journalists and scholars. Journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault was moderator and panelists included former NAACP president Julian Bond, Howard University School of Law Associate Dean Lisa A. Crooms-Robinson, activist and Freedom Rider Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, Vanity Fair National Editor and Political Correspondent Todd Purdum and journalist Helen Zia. The celebration also included soul stirring performances by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington and the Howard University Choir, a moving reading by local high school student Blessed Sherriff, and closing remarks by Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents Washington, D.C., in Congress.
After signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, President Lyndon B. Johnson spoke in 1965 at Howard University’s commencement about the law that is now considered one of the most important legislative achievements in American history. The road to the Civil Rights Act’s passage brought national attention to persistent injustices against black Americans, and LBJ chose Howard University to deliver his remarks due to the key role the University played in the civil rights movement.
WHUT, Howard University’s public television station, will air a special production of the event on Sunday, July 20, at 6 p.m., Thursday, July 24, at 8 p.m, and Friday, July 25 at 12 a.m. For more information, visit www.whut.org.