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Moritz celebrates anniversary of Civil Rights Act

August 29, 2014 | Events

Fifty years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law, the topic of race relations remains at the forefront of our cultural conversation. From debates over affirmative action to the recent events that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri, it’s as crucial as ever to discuss what the Civil Rights Act meant in 1964 – and what it means today.

The Civil Rights Act, which banned discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, is “a landmark statute,” said Daniel P. Tokaji, Robert M. Duncan/Jones Day Designated Professor of Law and an organizer of the event. “It’s a prime example of the law at its very best, expanding equality of opportunity for all people and giving real-life meaning to one of the most important principles in our Constitution.”

On September 15, from 12-1:30 p.m., a panel of experts will address the history, legacy, and future of the Civil Rights Act – including the challenges that lie ahead in achieving its promise of racial equality – in a discussion presented by The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Kirwan Institute.

“The Civil Rights Act at 50: Celebrating Its Legacy, Recognizing the Challenges Ahead” will take place in Saxbe Auditorium (55 W. 12th Ave.) and feature Martha Chamallas, Robert J. Lynn Chair in Law at Moritz; Hasan Kwame Jeffries, an Associate Professor of History at Ohio State; Molly J. Moran, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice (invited); and Carter Stewart, the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Ohio.

The Moritz American Constitution Society and Black Law Students Association chapters are co-sponsors of the event.

Chamallas is a leading scholar in employment discrimination law and legal issues affecting women. Jeffries specializes in 20th century African American history and has an expertise in the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. Moran is leading the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division on an acting basis, and recently traveled to Ferguson, MO with Attorney General Eric Holder. Stewart was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio in 2009; prior to his appointment, he worked in the Columbus office of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP, where he focused on the areas of criminal defense, commercial litigation, antitrust, and education law.

“As far as we have come, it is very clear that we still have a long way to go in terms of ensuring equal protection for all people regardless of race,” Tokaji said.  “The Civil Rights Act has been very effective in stemming discrimination, but it has not stopped discrimination completely. Employment discrimination is an example. Over the years, the concept of employment discrimination – particularly race and sex discrimination – has continued to evolve. The first bill signed by President Obama was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which was an amendment to the Civil Rights Act. This is an example of how this is very much a living statute that continues to evolve.”

In addition to the panel discussion, on September 15 at 7 p.m., Moritz, Kirwan, and the U.S. Department of Justice are co-sponsoring a university-wide evening with U.S. Congressman John Lewis, Nate Powell, and Andrew Aydin. They will discuss the Civil Rights Movement, and the experience of telling Congressman Lewis’s story in the graphic memoir March, at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. Free and open to the public, this event will be held in the Jean and Charles Schulz Lecture Hall, Room 220 on the second level.

“I’m happy to join with Moritz College of Law to celebrate the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and contemplate what it’s meant for our country,” U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart said. “We know that civil rights is not an issue for the history books. It’s important to consider a half-century of progress, but we must also look to the work that remains.”

Registration for the afternoon panel event is required. Please register here.