Miller Center

The Life of the Law: A Symposium Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

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The Miller Center is a nonpartisan institute that seeks to provide critical insights for the nation’s governance challenges.

May 2, 2014
9:00AM - 3:00PM (EDT)

Co-sponsored by the Miller Center; Center for the Study of Race and the Law; and the Office of the Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity, UVa

On July 2, 1964, Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, widely celebrated as the crowning achievement of a revolution in U.S. race relations that ramified into many spheres of domestic and international relations. One year earlier, John Kennedy had proposed a more moderate civil rights bill, which was nevertheless the most far-reaching piece of civil rights legislation proposed in 88 years.

This symposium will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act with an exploration of the Act’s origins, impact, and significance within several broad contexts, including the social movements and public policy transformations that the Act symbolized, promoted, and institutionalized.

Session 1: Civil Rights Revolution and Reform: What the White House Tapes Reveal

Session 2: Cold War Civil Rights and Human Rights

Session 3: Title VII and the Promise of Equal Employment (video not available)

Title VII of the Act prohibited discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Since 1964, thousands of cases have been litigated under Title VII. As a variety of grassroots organizations, lawyers, administrators in the EEOC, and judges have worked to implement that prohibition, they have found different opportunities and constraints. To what extent has the provision transformed the American workplace? What obstacles have claims under Title VII faced? How has both changing constitutional doctrine and changing social and political contexts affected both the nature of the claims brought and the judicial responses to them?

  • Serena Mayeri, University of Pennsylvania Law School, is the author of Reasoning from Race: Feminism, Law, and the Civil Rights Revolution (Harvard, 2011). 
  • Phil Tiemeyer, Assistant Professor of History, Philadelphia University, is the author of Plane Queer: Labor, Sexuality, and AIDS in the History of Male Flight Attendants (University of California Press, 2013), which examines how flight attendants have combated sexism and homophobia to create a more just and equal workplace through the last 80 years. 
  • Robert Samuel Smith, Associate Professor of History and Director, Cultures & Communities, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is the author of Race, Labor & Civil Rights: Griggs v. Duke Power and the Struggle for Equal Employment Opportunity (Louisiana State University Press, 2008).
  • Moderator: Risa Goluboff, Professor of Law and History, University of Virginia, author of The Lost Promise of Civil Rights (Harvard University Press, 2007). 

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