Civil Rights Act Celebrates 50 Years: Why So Little Progress?

CIVIL RIGHTS FORUM 2JULY14What: ACLU SoCal Pasadena-Foothills Chapter Public Forum
When: Tuesday, July 8, 7 p.m.
Where: Neighborhood Church, 301 N. Orange Grove Blvd, Pasadena
Who: Cal State LA Professor Melina Abdullah and ACLU Staff Attorney Brendan Hamme

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Fifty years ago this July 2nd, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a landmark measure that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Combined with followup legislation that extended and strengthened the Civil Rights Act, the nation made significant progress in undoing its decades-old legacy of racial discrimination. In 1963, for example, a scant 1 percent of black children in the South attended school with white schoolmates. By the early 1970s, fully 90 percent of black children attended racially integrated schools.

But political reaction and larger structural shifts quickly overwhelmed tentative progress. Today, segregation — both racial and economic — remains the core organizational feature of American public education. Indeed, many black and Latino students now attend schools where nearly every student is nonwhite, leaving these students more racially and socioeconomically isolated than ever.

And segregated schools get the short end of every stick, with larger class sizes, fewer resources for the special support students need to propel them into college — and often a police presence on high school campuses that sends far too many students in all the wrong direction.

“The school-to-prison pipeline funnels students — primarily students of color, students with disabilities and LGBT students — out of the schools in which they belong and into the criminal justice system’s revolving door,” notes Brendan Hamme, an ACLU of Southern California staff attorney who focuses on educational equity.

Joining Hamme will be long-time Pasadena Unified School District Board Member Renatta Cooper and Melina Abdullah, Professor and Chair of the Department of Pan-African Studies at Cal State LA and a leader in the fight for an ethnic studies requirement on her campus and throughout the Cal State system.

“It’s really important that students receive a counter-narrative to the Eurocentric education that’s been a part of their educational process since the K-12 system,” Abdullah has said. “We’re trying to present a new knowledge base where they can learn the true history, experiences and cultures of people who aren’t represented as they should be in traditional curricula.”

The event is free and open to the public.

For more info, contact forum moderator Michelle White, ACLU SoCal Pasadena/Foothills Chapter, or 213.434.4643.



  1. Luis Lozano says

    One of the main reasons for the lack of progress is directly attributable to the dismantling of the War on Poverty. There was progress being made in closing the income gap and other social disparities up until the programs of the war on poverty we dismantled. Integrated schools, voting rights are OK but if your opportunities for a better future are limited and you still can’t find a job to support your family then what does it matter. Someone once said that integrating the lunch counters was OK but if you still can’t afford to eat there then so what?

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