During the observance of this year’s Black History Month, America will celebrate 50 years since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed into law, a law long considered to be one of the greatest legislative accomplishments of the 20th century.
Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin and halted the practice of laws that imposed racial restrictions on the use of public facilities, job opportunities and voting, as well as by limiting federal funding for agencies practicing discrimination.
In a Presidential Proclamation, released Jan. 31, 2014, President Barack Obama highlighted the past conflicts of African-Americans and the importance of the values learned during those controversies.
“Through centuries of struggle, and through the toil of generations, African Americans have claimed rights long denied. During African American History Month, we honor the men and women at the heart of this journey,” the proclamation read. “We carry forward the unyielding hope that guided a movement as it bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice. Even while we seek to dull the scars of slavery and legalized discrimination, we hold fast to the values gained through centuries of trial and suffering.”
The celebration also provides an opportunity for Americans to reflect upon the contributions African Americans have made in defense of the nation, said Clarence A. Johnson, Principal Director and Director, Civilian Equal Employment Opportunity for the Defense Department, in a recent interview with the Pentagon Channel.
“From the Civil Rights Act through today, we continue on that diverse journey,” Johnson said. “We look for the best and brightest to serve our country.”
Diversity in the workplace and throughout the workforce has long been a major area of focus for the DOD, something that Johnson said will continue in the future.
“We have a dynamic opportunity to make sure diversity continues,” he added, “because we see it as strength.”
Paraphrased from his proclamation, Obama said that historically, when Americans have come together, they have made the United States of America a better place for future generations.
“Every American can draw strength from the story of hard-won progress, which not only defines the African-American experience, but also lies at the heart of our Nation as a whole,” he wrote in his proclamation. “It inspires a new generation of leaders, and it teaches us all that when we come together in common purpose, we can right the wrongs of history and make our world anew.”
For more information on African-American History Month and civil rights in America visit www.defense.gov.