Robert Kennedy, Roy Reuther and President Johnson at signing ceremony of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Wikimedia Commons)

On July 2, 1964, the United States took a monumental step forward in its ongoing journey toward equality and justice. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act, a landmark piece of legislation that prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. This act represented a significant victory for the civil rights movement, led by tireless advocates such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., A. Philip Randolph and Dr. Dorothy Height, among many others.

In a proclamation issued Monday, President Joe Biden reflected on this historic moment and the enduring legacy of the Civil Rights Act as the nation commemorates its 60th anniversary. 

Biden called out Black leaders and activists, including King, Randolph, Height and others, “who had fought, protested, and prayed for this moment” and “who had led the movement that made it [the Civil Rights Act] possible.”  

“Their efforts made us fundamentally better as Americans,” Biden continued, “opening the doors of opportunity wider and bringing our nation closer to its promise of liberty, equality and justice for all.

He emphasized that while the Civil Rights Act moved America closer to its founding ideal — that all people are created equal and deserve to be treated equally — there is still work to be done, he said. The proclamation underscores the ongoing struggle to secure civil rights and the need to address contemporary challenges to these freedoms.

Biden recalled the significance of the day President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, noting the presence of Black leaders and activists who had championed the cause through protests, sit-ins and marches. Their efforts were instrumental in bringing about this transformative legislation, which laid the groundwork for subsequent laws, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The president also reflected on the personal impact of the Civil Rights Act, sharing how the legacies of civil rights activists inspired him to pursue a career in public service, first as a public defender and later as a county councilman. These experiences, he said, shaped his commitment to civil rights and his efforts to bring about systemic change.

Despite the progress made, Biden acknowledged that the fight for civil rights is far from over. 

“Securing our civil rights remains the unfinished fight of our time,” Biden said. “Our country is still facing attacks to some of our most fundamental civil liberties and rights, including the right to vote and have that vote counted and the right to live free from the threat of violence, hate and discrimination.”  

He lauded his administration for taking significant steps to combat these challenges, including signing the Electoral Count Reform Act, appointing Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman on the Supreme Court, and investing in Black families and communities.

Biden’s administration has made historic investments in historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), reconnecting neighborhoods divided by discriminatory policies, and creating good-paying jobs. Additionally, efforts to make healthcare and small business loans more accessible, along with implementing policing reforms and addressing the disproportionate impact of marijuana laws on communities of color, are part of the broader agenda to advance civil rights, he listed as some of the civil rights accomplishments of his administration.

In his proclamation, Biden called on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, emphasizing that these measures are essential to securing the right to vote for all Americans. He urged the nation to recommit to the values enshrined in the Civil Rights Act and to continue building a democracy where everyone is treated with dignity and has the opportunity to pursue their dreams.

This article was written with the assistance of AI.

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