Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Civil Rights Act of 1964: The Miller Center Symposium

[On Friday, May, 2 from 9:00AM - 3:00PM, the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia will be hosting "The Life of the Law: A Symposium Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964."  The first two of its three sessions will be webcast live.  Full schedule and more information here.]

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.

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

John Kennedy proposed the civil rights bill and Lyndon Johnson ushered the Act through Congress amidst militant civil rights protests and violent white reaction nation-wide, at the height of the Cold War, with a divided and “deadlocked” Congress. What can the Miller Center’s Presidential Recordings Project reveal about presidential leadership in this period of crisis and opportunity? Were cold war pressures – to protect America’s image of free world leadership – in fact as significant as many argue, especially in light of the compelling moral and domestic political pressures leaders faced? Perhaps more importantly, how did each Administration define and try to shape the meaning of civil rights and the relative strength of the bill’s and the Act’s various titles?  How did these Administrations see the relationship between civil rights and the war against what JFK called “social and economic oppression?” What qualities of presidential leadership are evident in the two Administration’s civil rights tapes?

Thomas Jackson, University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Virginia Foundation for the Humanities
Kent Germany, University of South Carolina
Moderator: Claudrena Harold, University of Virginia Department of History

Cold War Civil Rights and Human Rights

Scholars have recently explored from many angles the intersection of domestic and international politics and policies during the civil rights revolution. This was a time when anti-colonial movements inspired U.S. activists, when widely publicized civil rights crises became acute cold war foreign policy headaches for Presidents, when defenders of racial hierarchy world-wide incorporated anti-Communism into their arsenals of resistance. Our invited scholars approach these debates from fresh perspectives that examine how the United Nations became a crucial site of contestation over the meaning and enforcement of civil rights and human rights. What can attention to cold war politics, global freedom movements, and debates in the UN about human rights tell us about the shape and scope, the successes and failures of the US rights agenda?

Carol Anderson, Professor of African American Studies and History, Emory University
Timothy Lovelace, Associate Professor, Indiana University Maurer School of Law
Moderator: William Hitchcock, UVa Department of History and Miller Center

Title VII and the Promise of Equal Employment

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
Phil Tiemeyer, Assistant Professor of History, Philadelphia University
Robert Samuel Smith, Associate Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
\Moderator: Risa Goluboff, Professor of Law and History, University of Virginia