dc-fireworks2We are two days away from celebrations, parades and fireworks.  We at the Phillips Law Firm would like to wish everyone a very happy, and safe, 4th of July.  Our independence should never be taken for granted.  It should be embraced and celebrated every single day.

Before the official Independence Day festivities begin, however, we at Phillips Law Firm wish to take a moment to honor the importance of this day, July 2, 2014.  This day is important because, like the 4th, it’s a day that celebrates the true freedom of our nation.  However, unlike the 4th, it’s a day that celebrates, more so than our nation as a whole, the rights and freedoms of the minorities of our nation.

This is because today marks the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  This Act sought to: outlaw discrimination, end racial segregation, and protect the voting rights of minorities and women.  As we celebrate today’s Anniversary, let’s take a quick look back at one of the most important civil rights laws in the history of the United States.

A Brief History Lesson

The Declaration of Independence stated that “All men are created equal.”  This quote, however, only really applied to wealthy white landowners when our nation was first formed.  Granted, equality was expanded in time following the Civil War when slaves were declared free.  Equality was also expanded via the 15th and 19th amendments which granted women and non-white people the right to vote.  Nonetheless, even after such monumental events, we as a nation were definitely not all free people.

If we turn the clocks back only about 60 years, people in the United States were still being denied their basic civil rights.  For example, Jim Crow laws in the south permitted racial segregation.  Further, at this same time, discrimination based on gender, race and religion was considered legal.

Prior to his assassination, President John F. Kennedy called for greater civil rights laws that would afford increased liberties for minorities and women.  After his assassination, President Lyndon B. Johnson echoed these hopes.  His hopes came to fruition on July 2, 1964 when he signed the Civil Rights Act into law.

Main Provisions of the Civil Rights Act

Many label the Civil Rights Act as “the bill of the century.”  Yet, many of us really do not understand the true importance behind the act and what it did for our country.  To help us all understand the act’s importance, let’s consider some of its main provisions.  Under the act:

  • The voting requirements for all people must be the same
  • Discrimination is outlawed in all public places
  • Access to public facilities cannot be denied based on race, religion or national origin
  • Public schools shall not be segregated
  • Government agencies shall not discriminate
  • Employers shall not discriminate based on race, gender, religion, or national origin

Did You Know?

The provisions of the Civil Rights Acts were ground-breaking and emancipating dictates for many members of our country.  These provisions should be celebrated for the breadth and strength of the liberties they created.  The act itself is also interesting.  For example, consider these three quick facts.

  • A greater percentage of republicans, in both the House and Senate, voted in favor of the act versus democrats.
  • Southern democrats vehemently opposed the act and filibustered for 83 days.
  • Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. met for the first, and only time, during Senate debates on the act.

“Let Freedom Ring”

Martin Luther King Jr. powerfully breathed life into these three words during his I Have a Dream Speech delivered on August 28, 1963.  We should embrace these words today, for although freedom will ring loudly in just two days for us all, this freedom was not shared equally by all until a mere five decades ago.  Our firm is deeply rooted in these words since freedom and justice is what we seek and not just justice for some…but justice for you and justice for all.