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Archive for '- Civil Rights'

Reflections on LBJ and Civil Rights

Mark K. Updegrove is Director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas.

The first time a sitting President came to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library was on May 21, 1971, when President Richard Nixon boarded Air Force One and journeyed to the campus of the University of Texas at Austin to help former President Johnson dedicate the library to the American people.

It had been a little more than two years since Johnson had yielded the Oval Office to Nixon, and Johnson’s place in history was very much in the balance.

The war in Vietnam that Johnson had escalated and that continued to divide the nation hung balefully over his legacy. This, despite the profusion of landmark laws LBJ left in his wake, including the passage of a triumvirate of seminal civil rights legislation: the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

As library’s inauguration played out, the voices of 2,100 Vietnam protesters rumbled in the distance, their chants of “No more war!” carried by 25-mile-an-hour winds that swirled throughout the day.

On April 10, 2014, when Barack Obama became the second sitting President to visit the LBJ Library, the weather, which topped out at 88 degrees, was far less tempestuous—and Lyndon Johnson’s legacy had become far clearer.

President Barack Obama discussed the impact of the Civil Rights Act. (LBJ Library photo by Lauren Gerson)

President Barack Obama discussed the

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Celebrating a commitment to civil rights at the Johnson Presidential Library

Throughout the month of April, the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library will be exhibiting four cornerstone documents of civil rights. The “Cornerstones of Civil Rights” exhibit will run from April 1 through 30.

The exhibit will feature two documents signed by President Abraham Lincoln: an authorized, printed edition of the Emancipation Proclamation; and a copy of the Senate resolution proposing the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery.  

It will also include two documents signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson: the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965These are the four “cornerstone” documents on which modern civil rights legislation is enacted.

Civil Rights Act of 1964, National Archives Identifier 299891

Civil Rights Act of 1964, National Archives Identifier 299891

The exhibit links Lincoln and Johnson as two great civil rights champions in the nation’s history. Their conviction, commitment, and force of will to secure equal rights for all fundamentally changed American society.

In the exhibit are two hats owned and worn by the two Presidents—a Resistol beaver cowboy hat that accentuated Johnson’s Texas roots, and one of Lincoln’s famous stovepipe hats.

President Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hat will be on display at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library through the month of April. Photo credit: Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home, Manchester, Vermont.

President Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hat will be on display at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library through the month of April. Photo credit: Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home, Manchester, Vermont.

The exhibit coincides with the Civil Rights Summit, this year’s premiere event of a multi-year anniversary celebration of President Johnson’s prodigious … [ Read all ]

They “Leaned In” and took action in federal courts

Happy Women’s History Month! Today’s blog post comes from Kristina Jarosik, education specialist at the National Archives at Chicago.

Recently, two powerful women in the Silicon Valley, (Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and author of Lean In: Women Work and the Will to Lead and Marissa Meyer, CEO of Yahoo) provided the media and the public the opportunity to re-examine the role of women in the workplace. These exchanges, the dawn of Women’s History Month, and the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act encouraged us to step back “historically” and to look in our stacks for stories of women fighting for equality in the workplace through the federal courts.

We discovered several cases. Alice Peurala’s is one.

As a single parent working night shifts at U.S. Steel’s South Works in southeast Chicago in the 1950s, Alice Peurala wanted a day job. She heard that product testers in the Metallurgical Division had this appealing schedule. But these positions were not posted, as others were, for bidding.

In 1967 (after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act), a male colleague that Alice had trained was moved up to be a product tester after only four years. Just before he started, she called the hiring director and inquired about being considered for one of these jobs. His response, “No, we don’t want any women on these jobs.”… [ Read all ]

Celebrating the life of an ancestor who was a “12 Years A Slave”

This past summer, Vera Williams attended her annual family reunion and Solomon Northup Day. The day honors her great-great-great grandfather, Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped and forced into slavery in 1841. When Northup escaped, he wrote a book about his experiences and—most shockingly for that era—took his kidnappers to trial. The book was recently made into the movie 12 Years A Slave.

Solomon Northup Day was founded by Rene Moore, a local citizen of Saratoga Springs, NY, and has been celebrated for the past 15 years. Williams has helped organize family attendance to the events and manages a Facebook page for Solomon Northup Family and Friends. Relatives come together from across the country—including Williams’s own mother, who was honored this year as Northup’s oldest living descendant.

William fholding a first edition of "12 Years a Slave," written by her great-great-great-grandfather Solomon Northup. Williams purchased the book from Lyrical Bookstore in Silver Springs where she was attending the 15-year celebration of Solomon Northup Day.

Williams, center, holding a first edition of 12 Years a Slave, written by her great-great-great-grandfather Solomon Northup. Williams purchased the book from Lyrical Bookstore in Saratoga Springs, NY, where she was attending Solomon Northup Day.Vera Williams has worked at the National Archives since 2010, but she had no idea that records documenting her family history were in her workplace.

This year, the attendees included film executives, actress Lupita Nyong’o, and other representatives from the movie 12 Years A Slave. Moore had contacted Fox Searchlight Pictures to tell them about the annual celebration, and in … [ Read all ]

Records of Right Vote: Americans with Disabilities Act

Today is the last day to vote! Do you want the Americans with Disabilities Act to be displayed first in the new “Records of Rights” gallery? Vote now! 

Today’s guest post was written by Amber Powell, archivist at the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library.

At the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (known as the ADA) on July 26, 1990, President George H.W.  Bush said, “Three weeks ago we celebrated our nation’s Independence Day.  Today we’re here to rejoice in and celebrate another ’Independence Day,’ one that is long overdue. With today’s signing of the landmark Americans for Disabilities Act, every man, woman and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence and freedom.”

On July 26, 1990, President George Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. With him on the South Lawn of the White House are (from left to right, sitting) Evan Kemp, Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Justin Dart, Chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities; and (left to right, standing) Rev. Harold Wilke and Swift Parrino, Chairperson, National Council on Disability. Image from the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library.

On July 26, 1990, President George Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. With him on the South Lawn of the White House are (from left to right, sitting) Evan Kemp, Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Justin Dart, Chairman of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities; and (left to right, standing) Rev. Harold Wilke and Swift Parrino, Chairperson, National Council on Disability. Image from the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library.

The ADA proved to be a comprehensive declaration of equality, expanding federal civil rights laws to include disabled Americans. The legislation … [ Read all ]