Value Based Learning Program on the 50th Anniversary of the Signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

June 26, 2014

Joseph McDonald, founder of Newberry College’s Values Based Learning program, noted today that the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 reminds us that one of the primary purposes of a liberal arts education is to equip students with the abilities and understanding to be effective and caring servant leaders and citizens. 

Wednesday, July 2, marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The Act prohibited segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.  The Act had been proposed by President Kennedy prior to his assassination and then promoted by his successor, Lyndon Johnson.  The bill faced strong opposition from southern members of the House and Senate.  Opponents in the Senate staged a 75-day filibuster with Robert Byrd, a Democrat from West Virginia, speaking for fourteen straight hours.  Strom Thurmond, who had spoken for 24 hours in a filibuster against the 1957 Civil Rights Act, was also a vigorous opponent of the 1964 Act.  Eventually, the filibuster was broken and the Act passed the Senate in a 73-27 vote.  In the picture below, President Johnson signs the Act into law as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others look on.  This Act was a signal moment in the Civil Rights Movement and American history.  

As we look back at the role of Kennedy, Johnson, and King we should remember that this Act and all the accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement rested on the efforts of all the nameless people who marched, and sat-in, and knocked on doors to register voters, and went to rallies.  Many of them were college students, black and white, from all over the country.  They were applying their education, making it relevant to what was going on around them in the larger world. They had learned that democracy is not granted, it must be won.  This is citizenship.  This is what a college education should produce.

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