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1955-1969: We demand liberty and justice for all

July 2, 1964
Years of struggle lead to a powerful new civil rights law

Martin Luther King, Jr

When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir…We have come to cash this check.
—Martin Luther King, Jr.

It’s been nearly 100 years since we amended the Constitution to guarantee equal protection to all.

Yet until now, this basic right was more a promise than a reality for black Americans.

Tonight, with Martin Luther King, Jr. looking on, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. After years of protest, black Americans have the full power of federal law behind their struggle to end discrimination.

The Act uses Congress’s power over interstate commerce to force businesses to treat African Americans equally.

No longer can they be denied hotel rooms, access to restrooms, or seats in the front of a bus. No longer can federal funds support discriminatory programs. No longer can employers refuse to hire based on race.

And the law gives the government new tools to enforce the Brown decision desegregating the schools.

“We shall overcome, someday,” promises the song.

Is today that day?

Read about it in the New York times

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