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“We must not fail” The Civil Rights Act, 50 Years Later

Honoring the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, UT prepares a slate of events, including a Civil Rights Summit featuring two former U.S. presidents. Learn more.

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On Presidents Day the university announced that two former holders of that office Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter will deliver keynote speeches on campus in April. The cause for their appearances: a three-day Civil Rights Summit, hosted by the LBJ Presidential Library, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Martin Luther King Jr. with Lyndon Johnson

Martin Luther King Jr. meets with President Johnson at the White House in 1963. [Credit: LBJ Library photo by Yoichi Okamoto] 

In the years that followed the Civil Rights Act, Johnson passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Together, this triumvirate of laws would ban discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion or national origin.

The summit, taking place April 8-10, will reflect on the seminal nature of the civil rights legislation passed by President Lyndon Johnson while examining civil rights issues in America and around the world today.

Additional speakers include former NAACP chairman Julian Bond, LBJ’s daughter Luci Baines Johnson, journalist Tina Brown, former Atlanta mayor and visiting professor Shirley Franklin, and former NBA star Bill Russell.

Other commemorative activities include a Civil Rights Film Series (April 2, 3, 7) and a “Cornerstones of Civil Rights” exhibit at the LBJ Library (April 1-30) highlighting civil rights legislation passed during the presidencies of Johnson and Abraham Lincoln. On display will be the 13th Amendment Resolution ending slavery, signed by President Lincoln, original documents of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and iconic hats worn by the two presidents.

The LBJ School of Public Affairs will continue celebrating Johnson’s legislative legacy with “50 for 50,” a special series of 50 events for 50 years, exploring the critical civil rights issues of our time such as human rights and social justice and calling for a renewed effort to “get things done” in order to improve the lives of all citizens.

This spring also brings the 28th annual Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights, co-hosted by the UT School of Law, the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement and the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good on March 28.

The daylong event will focus on the future of access to opportunity through higher education, bringing together scholars, advocates, educators and students to examine contemporary debates involving diversity in higher education. In addition to examining the Supreme Court’s decision in the Fisher v. University of Texas case and the questions currently before the Fifth Circuit, panels will explore race-based versus class-based affirmative action, achieving diversity through race-neutral admissions plans and the ripple effects of diversity in higher education.

Sweatt v. Painter was the landmark case that ruled in favor of Heman Marion Sweatt, securing his admission as the first African-American student to The University of Texas at Austin School of Law. That suit paved the way for Brown v. the Board of Education and later for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

Further Reading from our Black History Month series:

Changing the Field: Integrating Athletics at UT

Slavery on Screen: Scholars’ Impressions and Interpretations

Photojournalists’ Archives Capture African-American Life During the Civil Rights Era

Psychiatric Patients’ Stories No Longer Unknown