Raleigh, N.C. — Members of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus gathered at a news conference Wednesday to honor the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act.
Lawmakers praised the progress marked by the civil rights legislation but said African-Americans still face a tough battle for equality in schools and housing.
Rep. Garland Pierce, D-Scotland, the group's chairman, said the landmark legislation paved the way for the passage of the Voting Rights Act the following year.
“It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears so that all Americans could have the right to a good quality education, to vote,” Pierce said.
Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, noted the bipartisan push for the legislation 50 years ago.
“President Johnson was courageous, but what was most courageous was the bipartisan support that came together to pass that act,” McKissick said.
But, he said, many of the gains of the civil rights movement are now in jeopardy, and he emphasized the need for future leadership.
“That same great leadership I would like to see emerge within our state today, within our General Assembly, on issues that make a significant difference,” he said.
Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, recalled witnessing the historic moment when the legislation was signed, but he said inequality still looms over the state.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Michaux said.
Gov. Pat McCrory honored the anniversary of the law, praising it as a testament to the nation’s character.
“The Civil Rights Act of 1964 did more than ban discrimination and segregation on the basis of race, religion, national origin and gender,” McCrory said in a statement. “It began a process that allowed people to get to know one another on a personal level that simply wasn’t possible before the Civil Rights Act was signed into law. The 1964 Civil Rights Act is more than a milestone of the civil rights movement. Because it has benefited and belongs to every American, it’s a milestone of our national history and character.”
The African-American Caucus of the state’s Democratic Party applauded the anniversary of the legislation while slamming state Republicans for policies the caucus says reverse its progress.
“The disgust we have is remaining on the same bitter battlefield as Republicans try to re-segregate schools via the charter system and rob our children of educational opportunities,” Willie Fleming, the organization’s president, said in a statement. “African-Americans still fight for jobs with unemployment rates double that of the population and are incarcerated at shocking rates.”