Bonnie Watson Coleman & Donald Payne Jr.: On the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Today is the anniversary of one of the most important pieces of legislation in the country’s history, signed this day in 1964 by LBJ. One that never would have happened without the determination and labor of millions of people – most of whose names history didn’t note – for education, voting rights, the workplace and in the everyday realm of getting around in the places where people live. Among those who helped move a president were college students who stood up for what’s right so others could sit down, and even the children of Birmingham, Alabama, who showed determination, leadership, and bravery.

The only two statements that arrived in our inbox were both from African Americans, from Bonnie Watson Coleman who if elected will become the first black woman New Jersey has ever sent to Congress, and from Rep. Donald Payne Jr.

It’s a shame nobody else took notice of the significance of the day. And that it looks like only NJ black leaders with their eyes on national history did. I hope somebody proves that wrong. And if I see other statements – or you do – I’ll update. Till then, Bonnie and Rep. Payne own this post:  

Bonnie Watson Coleman

“While we look forward to celebrating the birth of our country on Friday, I would also like to take a moment to reflect on the fifty-year anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and it’s impact on our country.  When President Johnson signed the bill it took great courage on his part to stand against the accepted norms and move our country forward.  The impact of his courage was felt in the voting booths, in schools, in offices and even at lunch counters.  Since then we have continued to strive, as evidenced by our country electing the first African American president in our history and the recent progress for marriage equality.

Our country’s proud history continues to evolve daily and, in those fifty years we have made so much progress . . . but we still have so far to go to achieve fairness for everyone.  Women still make .78 on the dollar that men make for doing the same job and under this Congress and the current Supreme Court we have recently had some other significant setbacks.  The Supreme Court gutted voting rights laws that were designed to protect African Americans and racial minorities and, just this week, the Supreme Court ruled that employers can object to paying for birth control that a doctor prescribes.  

We have come so far as a nation but we have so much further to go to make sure middle class families throughout the Twelfth District and across the country begin to grow again and have a chance to succeed for future generations.  If elected to represent the Twelfth Congressional District I will work every day to make sure that no one’s health care will be determined by the whims of their employer, that the quality of our children’s education is not determined by the zip code they were born and that all families have equal access to fair student loans and Congress doesn’t give preference to the banks over our kids.

Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (emphasis & links, his)

“The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is one of the most significant laws in this nation’s history, banning discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,” Rep. Payne, Jr. said.  “This 50th anniversary is a time to remember the blood, sweat, and tears that the courageous leaders of the civil rights movement gave for equality.  Many were beaten and too many died in their fight for justice.  Congress today must carry the torch of their legacy and see to it that their struggles were not in vain.”

The landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 helped bring the Jim Crow era of discrimination in public places to an end.  The Act also banned discrimination in employment.  Before the enactment of the Civil Rights Act, many public facilities in regions of the country were still segregated.  With its enactment, the Civil Rights Act also helped provide a long-awaited enforcement mechanism for the integration of schools.

“Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 achieved enormous progress in this country, much more must be done to achieve true equality in this nation. There could be no better way to mark this 50th anniversary than for Congress to pass a renewed, updated, and strengthened Voting Rights Act.”

The Voting Rights Act has been responsible for much of the progress made in recent decades to outlaw discriminatory voting practices.  And yet, unfortunately, last June, in Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court significantly weakened the Act by invalidating one of its key sections.  In response, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) has introduced a bipartisan compromise bill – the Voting Rights Amendment Act – which provides an updated, effective, and forward-looking Voting Rights Act for today.  

“I am a proud co-sponsor of the updated Voting Rights Amendment Act that will address the discrimination at the ballot box that still exists in towns and cities across the country today.  I am urging Members on both sides of the aisle to continue the bipartisan tradition of supporting civil rights and pass the Voting Rights Amendment Act,” Rep. Payne, Jr. concluded.  “This action would carry on the legacy and spirit of the Civil Rights Act and would continue to help America better live up to our creed that all individuals are created equal.”

Please see Rep. Payne, Jr.’s speech calling on Congress to pass the Voting Rights Amendment Act here.

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