Protesters in Washington D.C. (photo by Getty Images)
“Most philosophers see the ship of state launched on the broad irresistible tide of democracy, with only delaying eddies here and there; others, looking closer, are more disturbed.” ––W.E.B. DuBois (from The Wisdom of W.E.B. DuBois)
Upon signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, President Lyndon B. Johnson shared, among others, these remarks:
“We believe that all men are created equal. Yet many are denied equal treatment. We believe that all men have certain unalienable rights. Yet many Americans do not enjoy those rights. We believe that all men are entitled to the blessings of liberty. Yet millions are being deprived of those blessings–not because of their own failures, but because of the color of their skin.”
In fact, race was only one of the issues the act addressed. It also confronted discrimination based on religion, gender, and national origins. Many would, and do, argue that President Johnson’s remarks are no longer applicable in the 21st century. Many would, and do, argue that the words of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 itself should no longer matter.
Yet they mattered enough to President Johnson that he reportedly signed it with 75 different pens, presenting one each to those who had supported the bill, including Roy Wilkins and Martin Luther King, Jr. The pens undoubtedly were intended to help commemorate the achievement but perhaps they also served to reinforce the commitment and accountability necessary to make the political gesture a functional democratic reality.
To read the full post by Aberjhani please click this link:
Text and Meaning in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (part 2 of 3) | Aberjhani | Blog Post | Red Room.