Let’s Learn Together is the tagline on all our volunteer t-shirts, and it’s a philosophy at the center of who we are. We learn together with our students, their families, and our partners each day.
July marks several important defining moments throughout history, including the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, the conclusion of the “Longest Walk” demonstration, and the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment. Let’s learn more about them together!
The Signing of the Civil Rights Act
At the height of the Civil Rights Movement and when racial tension in the United States was at an all-time high, President John F. Kennedy introduced a civil rights bill to Congress in June of 1963. During a nationally televised address, Kennedy asked the nation to take action to guarantee the equal treatment of all citizens, regardless of race. The bill he proposed asked for civil rights legislation addressing voting rights, public accommodations, school desegregation, nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs, and more. Unfortunately, Kennedy was assassinated before he could see his bill progress, but his Vice President, Lyndon B. Johnson, continued moving the bill forward. With the help of the NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and key members of Congress, Johnson secured the bill’s passage. On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. The law prohibits racial discrimination in education and employment and outlaws racial segregation in all public places, including schools, buses, parks, swimming pools, and most private businesses. The signing of the Civil Rights Act also led to other important legislation, such as the Voting Act of 1965, which protected African Americans’ right to vote.
The “Longest Walk” for Native American Justice Concludes
On February 11, 1978, over 300 Native Americans gathered in a ceremony on Alcatraz Island to kick off the pilgrimage of 24 Native American activists who planned to walk from Sacramento, California, to Washington, D.C., in protest of 11 pieces of legislation being considered by Congress. The legislation being considered violated or eliminated various treaties, ended federal programs, such as hospitals, schools, and housing projects, stopped reservations, and ended hunting and fishing rights outside of the reservations.
The “Longest Walk” demonstration was used to educate non-Indians about Indian culture and spiritual life. As the group of 24 made their way across the country, they were joined by more than 2,000 supporters. When they arrived in Washington, D.C., nearly 1,000 additional supporters joined as they marched into the city. They marched through the city to the beat of a drum and established a camp at Greenbelt Park in Prince George’s County, twelve miles from Downtown D.C. Over eight days, they engaged in protests, demonstrations, rallies, marches, religious ceremonies, and educational workshops. During that time, they also held rallies and meetings at the White House, Supreme Court, the Capital, and the FBI building to express their concerns. Their concerns were heard, and none of the bills passed in Congress. Shortly after, Congress passed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act and the Indian Child Welfare Act, both important laws that protect the rights and freedoms of Native Americans.
The Signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law. This law gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities, much like those given to individuals based on race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It also guarantees equal opportunities to individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the public. It also covers many physical and mental disabilities and provides legal recourse against employers who discriminate against people with disabilities. The law also established standards of access to public buildings, public accommodations, and laws regarding service animals.
The Adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment
On July 28, 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment, which granted citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States, including enslaved people, was adopted. Along with the Thirteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, it is known as one of the “Reconstruction Amendments,” which forbids any state from denying any person “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” or to “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The Fourteenth Amendment reaffirmed the rights and privileges of all United States Citizens and granted all citizens “equal protection of the law.”