Tuesday, September 23, 2014

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National Urban League Looks Back Fifty Years After Civil Rights Act

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Fifty years ago this month, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, making discrimination illegal. The National Urban League was one of the key organizations on hand when the president signed the bill into law. NY1’s Cheryl Wills visits its national headquarters in Manhattan with a look back.

When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law in July 1964, it effectively killed Jim Crow laws once and for all. The National Urban League's Whitney Young was on hand to witness history. He received one of the nearly 100 pens that Johnson used to sign the historic legislation. Today, the National Urban League is marking this 50th anniversary with great pride.

"We are a better nation than we were in 1964,” said Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League.

The landmark Civil Rights legislation banned discrimination, which was still widespread in the mid-1960s, especially in southern states.

"Separate water fountains, people unable to stay at hotels, unable to eat at restaurants, that reality of an apartheid system in America is something that many people can’t even get their head around,” said Morial.

As the National Urban League prepares to celebrate the milestone with Vice President Joe Biden at their upcoming convention later this month, they plan to address new challenges that face the nation a half century later.

"We want bring this discussion, not only a look back but also a look forward into the 21st century with important civil rights issues like economic opportunity, voter suppression, what we do with schools & education are all at the forefront of the discussion we need to have today,” said Morial.

The National Urban League is also moving forward with plans to build a Civil Rights Museum on 125th Street in Harlem. And it plans to make the historic Civil Rights Act a key exhibit as a salute to New Yorkers who helped to make it a reality.

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