Payne Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Civil Rights Act

Jul 2, 2014 Issues: Local Issues

Newark, N.J.  – Today, Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) marked the 50th anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act. Fifty years ago, on July 2, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed this historic bill into law, marking the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. 

“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 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,” Rep. Payne, Jr. continued.  “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.