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Friday, April 18, 2014

LBJ Library Hosts Civil Rights Summit

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Three former presidents and the sitting President of the United States walk into the LBJ Library ...

No joke. April 8-10, 2014, the LBJ Presidential Library hosted a Civil Rights Summit to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This three day celebration featured civil rights activists, musicians, authors, and yes - four presidents of the United States.

Thanks to a friend with an extra ticket, I had the chance to hear giants of the civil rights movements talk about their experiences. The "Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement: Views from the Front" panel was without a doubt my favorite panel of the second day. Y'all, figures from my US History textbooks were sitting in front of me: Julian Bond (founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), Representative John Lewis (keynote speaker at the 1963 March on Washington), and Andrew Young (negotiator during Civil Rights Campaigns across the south).

What. Even. Is. I was torn between writing every word they uttered and being humbled by their presence. Thankfully, the LBJ Library has all the panels and keynote addresses available on their YouTube channel. Each speaker challenged me to think critically of the civil rights movement and charged me to determine my role in current movements.
Americans of every race and color have died in battle to protect our freedom. Americans of every race and color have worked to build a nation of widening opportunities. Now our generation of Americans has been called on to continue the unending search for justice within our own borders. We believe that all men are created equal. Yet many are denied equal treatment. We believe that all men have certain unalienable rights. Yet many Americans do not enjoy those rights. We believe that all men are entitled to the blessings of liberty. Yet millions are being deprived of those blessings--not because of their own failures, but because of the color of their skin. The reasons are deeply imbedded in history and tradition and the nature of man. We can understand--without rancor or hatred--how this all happened. But it cannot continue. Our Constitution, the foundation of our Republic, forbids it. The principles of our freedom forbid it. Morality forbids it. And the law I will sign tonight forbids it. - President Lyndon B. Johnson's while signing the Civil Rights Bill in 1964


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