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Past and Present: The Anniversary Of A Continuing Battle

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This year marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This landmark legislation made it illegal to discriminate against someone based upon their race or place of birth.

Before 1964, the experiences of transplanted Africans in this country were dramatically influenced by slavery and Jim Crow racial segregation. During the past 50 years, many African Americans, under the protection of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, have achieved a level of social and economic mobility that their ancestors could only have dreamt of.

However, the battle for true racial equality in America is far from won. Considering the intensity and longevity of overt white racism in the United States, which lasted nearly three-and-a-half centuries, it is not surprising that the lingering negative reverberations of slavery and Jim Crow can still be felt today.

Thus, there remains a need for organizations such as the NAACP whose historic mission has been to fight racial discrimination in the United States. Fortunately, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides a monumental base of support for these ongoing efforts to make America, as described in the “Pledge of Allegiance,” truly a place characterized by “liberty and justice for all.”

Robert E. Weems Jr. is the Willard W. Garvey Distinguished Professor of Business History at Wichita State University.