Fifty years ago this week the Civil Rights Act of 1964 voided all discriminatory laws (de jure segregation) in the public arena. It went a step further than each of its predecessors of 1866, 1871, 1875, 1957 and 1960 by outlawing racial segregation in schools, the workplace and other public spaces. Considered the most important act in its lineage, ponder for a moment the fact that America, land of the free, required at least five more acts of congress to even begin moving toward equality for all.
For those keeping score at home, there was the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and Civil Rights bills passed in 1968 (Fair Housing), 1987 (featuring an override of President Reagan’s veto), 1990 (job discrimination), and 1991 (right to trial by jury in discrimination cases).
It’s important to remember and celebrate this important legislation. But equally important is to remember the struggle that led to it, the people behind the scenes, and what came after. To commemorate this anniversary, Joe Tropea, the Curator of Films & Photographs, and Digital Projects Coordinator at the Maryland Historical Society, selected photographs from three MdHS collections (Paul Henderson, Richard Childress, and Theodore McKeldin) that highlight the struggle, high and low points, and remind us of what it means to be human.