One week ago Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and wife Coretta Scott King received the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor. The King family, along with congressional members and others, attended the ceremony given posthumously to the civil rights couple.
Dr. King and wife Coretta are considered the greatest couple in the Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 this year is 50 years old, and the anniversary brings about memories long fought by African Americans to receive equal status from decades of segregation and discrimination.
President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the act into law on July 2, 1964, which today marks exactly 50 years. The video by President Johnson signing it into law can be seen below.
The Philadelphia Tribune wrote an editorial yesterday remembering the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and had this to say –
The Act outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The law required equal access to public places and employment, and enforced desegregation of schools and the right to vote.
The Civil Rights Act is considered one of the consequential legislation in American history.
Its passage did not come from the sudden enlightenment and benevolence of the nation’s political leaders but was borne out of long hard struggle and sacrifice.
While slain civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is deservedly credited and celebrated for the leading the movement and lawmakers made the passage possible, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the result of a collective struggle of civil rights activists, students, labor leaders, clergy and average citizens who marched, protested and faced brutality and violence.
The Civil Rights Act was signed into law less than two weeks after the murders by the Ku Klux Klan of three young civil rights workers, Andrew Goodman, 20, James Chaney, 21, and Michael Schwerner, 24.
News sources in covering the award ceremony reported civil rights leader and activist Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a mainstay in the Civil Rights Movement, in a statement –
“We gather here in the Capitol to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his beloved wife, Coretta Scott King, one of the most distinguished and admired husband and wife teams of the 21st century,” said Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), himself a leader in the Civil Rights movement. “Often history remembers speeches of facts and figures, but I cannot forget their love. From their union came an enduring strength that carried many of us through the darkest days of the movement.”
Remarks from Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) and Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus –
“The Civil Rights Act of 1964 did more than help end discrimination in America,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio). “The Civil Rights Act established that legal discrimination would no longer be a barrier to what one could achieve; but that achievement should be solely determined by one’s ability and ambition.”
Bernice King, the youngest of the King children, gave her statement –
“We are deeply honored that my father and mother, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, are being given this award in recognition of their tireless and sacrificial leadership to advance freedom and justice through nonviolence in our nation,” said Bernice A. King, the Kings’ youngest child, in a statement released after the award was announced. “It is fitting that the award will be presented by the U.S. Congress as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was a cornerstone reform on America’s journey to racial justice.”
The law enabled America to move progressively forward in many ways; however more needs to be done. Blacks are still discriminated against, schools where black children attend lack resources than their white counterparts, and the Voting Rights Act is in limbo due to the Supreme Court’s decision (Shelby vs. Holder) of striking down Section 4 last year.
Martin Luther King III spoke about the Voting Rights Act and believes the result of the ruling is a backward process. View his reasons below.
A caption of the ceremony was televised with congressional members linked arm-in-arm singing “We Shall Overcome” at the end. Washington, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) talked about the Civil Rights Act in 1964 on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” and her role as a participant in the civil rights era while a law student at Yale University. Check the video from dcist.com below.