Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement

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  • 0:01 Fixing Broken Schools
  • 0:44 Affirmative Action
  • 1:45 Fair Housing, Fair…
  • 3:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed more than 50 years ago, but still its effects, and the effects of later programs, are felt today. That said, the intervening years have been far from perfect in the pursuit of real civil rights.

Fixing Broken Schools

When discussing the legacy of the civil rights movement, starting at education just makes sense. After all, it was the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case that jumpstarted the movement in the 1950s, with its abolition of the practice of separate but equal, which had enabled many of the segregationist laws of the period. Therefore, it's little surprise that there was very real motivation to change the way school systems were run. It was already bad enough that entirely separate systems existed, but it was clear that the victims of the non-white districts would need serious assistance in order to catch up from the impact of such institutional racism. However, these programs were not without some controversy.

Affirmative Action

One of the ways that this was enabled was to create affirmative action programs that would provide preferential treatment to those minorities that had been excluded in the past. Signed into law in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, the idea was furthered in 1965 by Lyndon Johnson. At first, the policy sought to only remove the possibility of discrimination, but with the expansion came official encouragement to ensure diversity. In doing so, the policy hoped to fix the vast differences between minorities in high-achieving roles that had previously been off-limits to them. Also of note was that, by the end of the 1960s, affirmative action could be applied to advance the cause of women as well.

These programs have not been without controversy, however. A number of challenges have been issued against the constitutionality of affirmative action, saying that it did not grant equal protection as guaranteed under the 14th Amendment.

Fair Housing, Fair Voting & Forced Busing

Other programs have been even more controversial. Housing is a good example of this. The Fair Housing Act was passed as part of the Civil Rights Act in 1968, which forbade people from discriminating against individuals when dealing with housing, whether as landlords or as realtors. Before then, minorities had been steered to separate neighborhoods as a result of systematic racism, even if they had the financial resources to live in the area of their choice. However, the resources to really enforce the Fair Housing Act have been slow in coming. Despite continued interest in the program's objectives, in many parts of the country, it remains unenforced.

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