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The 1957 Civil Rights Act Essay

1160 words - 5 pages

For 75 years following reconstruction the United States made little advancement towards racial equality. Many parts of the nation enacted Jim Crowe laws making separation of the races not just a matter of practice but a matter of law. The laws were implemented with the explicit purpose of keeping black American’s from being able to enjoy the rights and freedoms their white counterparts took for granted. Despite the efforts of so many nameless forgotten heroes, the fate of African Americans seemed to be in the hands of a racist society bent on keeping them down; however that all began to change following World War II. Thousands of African American men returned from Europe with a renewed purpose and determined to break the proverbial chains segregation had keep them in since the end of the American Civil War. With a piece of Civil Rights legislation in 1957, the federal government took its first step towards breaking the bonds that had held too many citizens down for far too long. The Civil Rights Act of 1957 was a watered down version of the law initially proposed but what has been perceived as a small step towards correcting the mistakes of the past was actually a giant leap forward for a nation still stuck in the muck of racial division. What some historians have dismissed as an insignificant and weak act was perhaps the most important law passed during the nation’s civil rights movement, because it was the first and that cannot be underestimated.
The Civil Rights Act of 1957 was the first serious attempt by the United States government in 75 years to address the racial divide which had consumed the nation. At its core the Act was an attempt to address the suppression of Black American voting rights in southern states. The Act created a Commission on Civil Rights to investigate all accusations of voter suppression based on race, religion, or national origin and gave victims a judicial recourse. The issue of voter disenfranchisement was the single largest issue keeping African Americans from being able to achieve racial equality. Dr. Martin Luther King spoke on that during a speech he made at the first Civil Rights demonstration on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1957. He said, “So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably posses the right to vote, I do not posses myself.” The Act was an attempt to address that fundamental right.
Dr. King understood that the right to vote was Black Americas best hope at achieving true equality. He stated, “Give us the right to vote and we will no longer have to worry the Federal Government about our basic rights.” Dr. King was not the only person to understand this to be true. Despite being a Senator from Texas, Lyndon Johnson was committed to Civil rights action. As Senate Majority Leader, Johnson sent the bill to conference committee to appease Southern Senators, which resulted in much of the teeth being removed from the original bill. Despite this set back he felt strongly it was better than having...

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