Hoyer Statement on 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

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Transcript: 

“When President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, it was the culmination of a movement for equality and desegregation.

“The success of that movement was achieved by the energy and unyielding faith of thousands of Americans who stood up and marched for their rights.

“The purpose of the Civil Rights Act, President Johnson said, ‘Is to promote a more abiding commitment to freedom, a more constant pursuit of justice, and a deeper respect for human dignity.’

“But, as much as the Civil Rights Act was a milestone in dismantling legal barriers to equality, there is still more work for us to do in our own day to build on that law and break down remaining barriers to full equality and opportunity. 

“Less than a year after the Civil Rights Act was signed, Dr. Martin Luther King spoke to the Selma marchers from the steps of the Alabama statehouse.

“He declared that, for African-Americans, the Civil Rights Act had restored ‘some part of their rightful dignity, but without the vote it was dignity without strength.’

“The most essential tool of our rights in a democracy is the most fundamental right of them all: the right to vote. The power of having an equal say.

“The Civil Rights Act broke down barriers to participation in our economy and society. But it was the Voting Rights Act, signed into law the following year that provided access to the ballot box for millions whose voices had been shut out of our democracy.

“Last year the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act, making it possible once again for states to impose discriminatory barriers to voting.  A number of states that have a history of voter suppression and discrimination have already begun to do that.

“Fixing this problem and ensuring that every American can equally access the voting booth will require Congress to act.

“That’s why I joined with Civil Rights leader, Representative John Lewis and Republican Representative Jim Sensenbrenner to introduce the Voting Rights Amendment Act, which would restore the protections the Supreme Court removed last year. This bipartisan legislation deserves to be considered and voted on without delay.

“I hope you will join me in marking this 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act by sharing your support for the Voting Rights Amendment Act with your Representatives in Congress. 

“Together, we can continue pursuing the goals that so many marched for.

“When the Selma marchers reached the statehouse, Dr. King said: ‘Our feet are tired, but our souls are rested.’

“Let us say the same of ourselves as we continue the unfinished work of ensuring that every American can not only vote, but has the freedom, the justice, and the dignity that all people deserve.”