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Companies 'Steal' Billions from Low-Income Workers

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Employers pickpocket billions of dollars from low-wage workers, a crime that disproportionately hurts Blacks and often goes underreported, according to a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

Researchers at EPI, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank focused on economic issues that effect low- and middle-income families, said that employers steal wages from their workers by paying sub-minimum wages, failing to pay for overtime, writing bad payroll checks and cheating workers out of their tips.

“When a worker earns only a minimum wage ($290 for a 40-hour week), shaving a mere half hour a day from the paycheck means a loss of more than $1,400 a year, including overtime premiums,” stated the report. “That could be nearly 10 percent of a minimum-wage employee’s annual earnings – the difference between paying the rent and utilities or risking eviction and the loss of gas, water, or electric service.”

Blacks account for 11 percent of the total work force, but more than 14 percent of the low-wage workforce, according to EPI. In Southern states, including Georgia and Louisiana, Blacks account for more than 40 percent of the low-wage workforce;  in Washington, D.C., Blacks hold more than half of all low-paying jobs. This worker status leaves Blacks vulnerable to wage theft at higher rates than their White counterparts who occupy low-wage jobs at lower rates compared to their share of the total workforce.

The study reported that two-thirds of low-wage workers deal with at least one pay-related violation in any given week.

It can start with a boss telling shift workers to wait on standby just in case they’re needed or asking them to work through a 10-minute break. Workers living hand-to-mouth and marginalized by society feel obligated to comply with these practices that are often illegal.

A worker that earns $17,616 annually may lose $2,634 due to wage theft.

Kentucky labor laws require that workers get a paid, 10-minute break for every four hours of work. A McDonald’s in Berea, Ky., violated the 10-minute break regulation and was forced to return $29,000 to 203 employees, the EPI report said.

In 2013, when all robberies in the Bluegrass State added up to $2.5 million, employers returned $4.4 million in stolen wages to employees, a criminal trend that ripples across the nation, according to the EPI report.

An investigation into the treatment of front-line workers in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles found that victims of wage theft lost $3 billion. EPI researchers used that figure to estimate that wage theft cost workers across the nation $50 billion, annually.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports 2012 data showed that “All of the robberies, burglaries, larcenies, and motor vehicle thefts in the nation cost their victims less than $14 billion,” the report said.

Front-line workers are often the first point of contact between a company and the customer.

According to another recent EPI report on restaurant workers, “Blacks are disproportionately likely to be cashiers/counter attendants, the lowest-paid occupation in the industry.”

Blacks account for 27.1 percent restaurant workers living in poverty compared to Whites who make up less than 14 percent of restaurant workers who share the same fate.

Some employers skirt wage and overtime laws, because the relative penalties are so low. Currently, for employers who fail to pay minimum wage or overtime, the maximum civil money penalty is about $1,000.

“For giant corporations such as Wal-Mart and Dollar General, maximum civil money penalties per violation should probably be at least $25,000, while small businesses should be subject to smaller fines – perhaps $5,000 per violation,” said the report. “Clearly, the fines should be sufficient to deter violations and to make it economically unwise to violate the law.”

The United States Labor Department and state-level labor officials managed to recover close to $1 billion in stolen wages in 2012, according to data collected from 44 states. That “is only the tip of the wage-theft iceberg, since most victims never sue and never complain to the government,” stated the report.

In a blog post in April 2014, Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of EPI wrote: “Few local governments have any resources or staff to combat wage theft, and several states have closed down or so severely cut back their labor departments that workers are left mostly unprotected and vulnerable to exploitation.”

The EPI report on wage theft recommended adding hundreds of investigators to the staff of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division and prohibiting companies that have been convicted of wage theft from receiving federal contracts.

“No one knows precisely how many instances of wage theft occurred in the U.S. during 2012, nor do we know what the victims suffered in total dollars earned but not paid,” the report stated. “But we do know that the total amount of money recovered for the victims of wage theft who retained private lawyers or complained to federal or state agencies was at least $933 million – almost three times greater than all the money stolen in robberies that year.”

Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy: Disaster Inequality

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Columnist

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Just before Labor Day 2005, the world was stunned as images of Gulf Coast citizens, trudged through chaos and stagnant floodwaters, strewn with the debris of wrecked buildings and storm-tossed earth. The sights seemed to replay just before Halloween 2012, as coastal New York and New Jersey waded in icy waters and picked through the rubble of their destroyed property.

The incidents were separated by more than 1,300 miles, seven years, and two extreme weather events: Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy. But a new Web media project titled, Katrina/Sandy, juxtaposes the storms to suggest that disastrous scenes like these may be on repeat, as extreme weather becomes a new global reality.

“We’re not trying to say they’re the same event…. But it’s definitely a worthy thing to put [them] in context with each other when we think about, how do we respond better, how do we prepare better?” says Rachel Falcone, filmmaker, co-founder of Sandy Storyline (along with multimedia artist, Michael Premo), and co-creator of the Katrina/Sandy project.

“We’re trying to tell stories that can impact and improve the recovery after Sandy, or at least improve it so that…we learn from the mistakes we made during Sandy and especially during Katrina. And also the successes…not all the stories are sad stories. Communities are coming together to meet needs successfully and create solutions.”

Katrina/Sandy is the joint endeavor of two award-winning projects, Land of Opportunity and Sandy Storyline. Sandy Storyline is a crowd-sourced collection of Hurricane Sandy experiences, solicited and curated by a team of filmmakers. Land of Opportunity is a New Orleans-based multimedia project from a team of filmmakers that explores issues around housing; the Katrina/Sandy timeline is hosted as part of this larger project.

Created from donated footage and testimony from scores of local filmmakers and citizens around the country, Katrina/Sandy blends film, photography, and firsthand audio accounts into a powerful timeline before, during, and after the storms.

Viewers click points along the line and journey through footage of ravaging winds, relentless floodwaters, weatherworn residents, and weary homeowners. As the short films and accounts play, viewers can also segue to compelling documents, articles, and interviews that explore related issues.

In one scene from the Sandy accounts, a mother walks through her home, surveying gutted walls and detailing the bureaucratic ordeal of beginning the rebuilding process, as her young daughter wanders around calling out memories. In an accompanying scene from the Katrina footage, a father reflects on the 18 months he and his family have lived in a trailer on his property, waiting for the city to demolish his crumbling house so he can rebuild, as his young son plays nearby.

The similarities continue to unfold in straightforward, powerful vignettes. Notably, low-income residents share similar experiences of isolation and neglect. In Sandy’s wake, it is elderly and disabled people stuck in high-rise public housing units without electricity, heat, or medications. Post-Katrina, it is mostly Black people slogging through hazardous floodwaters, searching for food and dry clothing.

Scientists and researchers almost unanimously agree that extreme weather events like these have become and will continue to be commonplace, as a result of climate change. Low-income and underserved communities, often home to people of color, will continue to bear the brunt of the effects.

“Folks who don’t have resources are the hardest hit at every stage of disaster. Katrina continues to be an ongoing disaster for a lot of people, and that’s clearly the bulk of what’s going on on the ground in Sandy,” says Luisa Dantas, filmmaker, director of Land of Opportunity, and co-creator of Katrina/Sandy.

“When we talk about looking ahead, and learning, and preparing, it’s mostly around ensuring that folks who don’t have access to resources are protected, and cared for, and able to recover and rebuild their lives just like everyone else can.”

Marginalization of these communities continues in debates about land use, rebuilding, and the right to return in the aftermath of disasters. Outside this project, both Dantas and Falcone work on issues around housing rights; Dantas points out that this scenario plays out often around the country.

“Crisis isn’t just a disaster on the scale of Katrina, but we’ve been looking at stories all over the country of crisis being used as a real excuse for policies that displace people, that put a premium on development agendas that aren’t necessarily inclusive, and aren’t necessarily being directed by the communities where they’re set,” she says, citing Detroit’s economic crisis as an example and Katrina as an extreme case.

Sandy survivors are at the beginning stages of these issues.

“Right after the storm there was all these meetings the mayor convened around policy that were shocking,” Falcone says. “There were town hall meetings, there’s been a lot of discussion around policy…and around buyouts, and development, and who has a say in what’s happening to different areas that are trying to rebuild. So we definitely see similar issues. But for us we feel like it’s not yet written, so we wanted to invite people to help us tell that story.”

Viewers are invited to share their post-Sandy stories at Sandystoryline.com/participate/share-your-story, and the Katrina/Sandy timeline can be viewed at http://beta.landofopportunityinteractive.com/#/compare.

Dantas and Falcone hope the timeline will help inform how people and officials prepare for this new normal.

“One really important thing to talk about with Katrina and the relationship to Sandy…is when a natural disaster becomes a manmade catastrophe. In the case of Katrina, the storm itself did not cause the lion’s share of damage. It was the epic failure of manmade infrastructure. And similar situations happened in Sandy recovery,” says Dantas.

“The Sandy anniversary is coming up and the decade of Katrina coming up in a year. The value of reflection isn’t just looking at what’s happened but also thinking about how what’s happened can be applicable to your own community. We’re really hoping that this work is driving home to people that this could happen to them, and if it were to happen to them, could they be better prepared?”

Sending Military Equipment to Police Questioned

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By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Last week, Washington lawmakers grilled officials from the Defense Department (DOD), Homeland Security and the Department of Justice over programs that sent equipment and money to state and local law enforcement agencies. Experts say those resources ultimately contributed to the militarization of police departments nationwide.

The stunning images of police decked out in fatigues, menacing peaceful protesters with assault rifles, and firing tear gas and rubber bullets into mixed crowds that included children, shocked many who witnessed the local law enforcement response to the unrest that engulfed Ferguson, Mo., following the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager who was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a White 6-year veteran police officer.

During a hearing on federal programs that support state and local law enforcement groups, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said that she was shocked and saddened as she watched events unfold in Ferguson, Mo., in the weeks after Brown’s death and said that most Americans were uncomfortable watching a suburban street in the St. Louis suburb being transformed into a warzone complete with camouflage,  armored vehicles and laser sights on assault rifles.

“Those lawful, peaceful protesters on that Wednesday afternoon in Ferguson, Mo., did not deserve to be treated like enemy combatants,” said McCaskill.

McCaskill noted that the Defense Department’s 1033 program, authorized in 1997, allows the DOD to send surplus equipment to state and local law enforcement for free.

“Much of the equipment from the program is as mundane as office furniture and microwaves,” said McCaskill. “But the Department of Defense is also giving local law enforcement million-dollar tactical vehicles, including its mine resistant ambush protected vehicle or MRAP.”

MRAPs are built to withstand roadside bombs and improvised explosive devices.

“These are vehicles that are so heavy that they can tear up roads,” said McCaskill.

During the Senate hearing, Alan Estevez, the principal deputy undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics at DOD, said that the department shared $1.9 million in excess equipment with state and local law enforcement agencies. Most of the items were considered “uncontrolled equipment,” such as office furniture, filing cabinets, medical kits and tool kits.

The Ferguson, Mo., police department received two Humvees, one generator and one cargo trailer from the DOD, according to Estevez. The St. Louis County police department acquired six pistols, 12 rifles, 15 weapon sights, one ordinance disposal robot, three helicopters, seven Humvees and two night vision devices

Estevez said that state coordinators determine the need for local law enforcement.

But McCaskill said that the Defense Department’s own records show that, in the last three years, DOD has given 624 MRAPs to state and local law enforcement agencies, “seemingly without regard to the need or size of the agency that received them.”

“In Texas, for example, local law enforcement agencies have 73 MRAPs, the National Guard has only six,” said McCaskill. “In Florida, local police departments have 45 MRAPs and the National Guard has zero.”

She questioned whether state and local law enforcement even needed the equipment.

McCaskill said that according to the Defense Logistics Agency nearly 40 percent of the equipment given away to law enforcement is new.

“It doesn’t appear that buying new equipment and then giving it away and spending more money to replace it is an effective use of the Defense Department resources,” said McCaskill.

Proponents of the programs have argued that the resources are essential in helping local law enforcement fight terrorism in a post-9/11 world. When Senator Thomas Coburn (R-Okla.) asked Brian Kamoie, the assistant administrator for Grant Programs for the Federal Emergency Management Agency at the Department of Homeland Security to recall the last event that required local law enforcement to use equipment they received through the program for counter-terrorism efforts, the FEMA official was at a loss for words.

Kamoie settled on the 2010 failed bombing attempt in Times Square in New York City and during the apprehension of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and wounded more than 260 others.

Kamoie testified that a grant-funded, forward-looking infrared camera mounted on a Massachusetts state helicopter helped police locate Tsarnaev, a point Coburn soundly refuted. The Oklahoma senator said that a homeowner in Watertown, Mass., found Tsarnaev in his boat and called 911.

“One of the key lessons learned during United States military missions in Iraq and Afghanistan was the idea that we had to win the hearts and minds of the citizens there,” said McCaskill. “I find it ironic that at the same time we are embracing those tactics as strong evidence of progress against the insurgency, we are in fact undermining the organization of our domestic police departments.”

Peter Kraska, a professor at the School of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University, said that the clear distinction between our civilian police and our military is blurring in significant and consequential ways.

“What we saw play out in Ferguson was the application of a very common mindset, style of uniform, appearance and weaponry used every day in the homes of private residences during SWAT raids,” said during the hearing.

According to Kraska, who specializes in criminal justice theory, police and criminal justice militarization, the total number of police paramilitary deployments, or call-outs has increased by 1,300 percent between 1980 and the year 2000.

In a statement submitted to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Kraska estimated that by 2007, there were an estimated 60,000 SWAT team deployments.

“And it is the poor and communities of color that are the most impacted,” said Kraska.

According to a report on the militarization of American policing by the American Civil Liberties Union, a nonprofit group that defends individual freedoms and constitutional rights, “42 percent of people impacted by a SWAT deployment to execute a search warrant were Black and 12 percent were Latino.”

Kraska said that it is no coincidence that the skyrocketing number of police paramilitary deployments on American citizens since the 1980s coincides perfectly with the skyrocketing imprisonment numbers.

The Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group that promotes reforms in the criminal justice system reported that almost 40 percent of people in state or federal prisons are Black and that almost half of the people serving time in state prisons in 2011 were locked up for non-violent drug offenses.

“It is hard to imagine that anyone intended for the wars on crime, drugs and terrorism to devolve into widespread police militarization. At the same time, we have opened the door for outfitting our police to be soldiers with a warrior mindset,” said Kraska. “These wars have been devastating to minority communities and the marginalized and have resulted in the self-perpetuating growth complex. Cutting off the supply of military weaponry to our civilian police is the least we can do to begin the process of reigning in police militarization.”

In a written testimony submitted to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Hilary Shelton, the Washington, D.C. bureau chief for the NAACP, said that the group has long advocated for a change in the paradigm, which has driven our criminal justice system.

In his statement, Shelton called for the adoption of “use of force” principles to be incorporated into the “Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act” and that any law enforcement agency which receives federal funding or participates in equipment transfer programs such as the Defense Department’s 1033 program show proof of annual training for all personnel on the appropriate use of force. Shelton also said that police officers need anti-racial profiling training.

“We need to move away from the failed scenario of declaring ‘war’ on the American people, whether it be the ‘War on Drugs,’ or a ‘War on Crime,’ and law enforcement needs to be trained to stop stereotyping people based on what they look like, the clothes they wear, the color of their skin, or the neighborhoods in which they live,” said Shelton.  “Above all, law enforcement at every level, local, state, and federal, should stop perceiving the citizens who they are hired to protect and serve as ‘the enemy.’”

Violence Against Women Law Needs Strengthening

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – In July, bystander footage of an unidentified California highway patrol officer pummeling a Black woman on the side of the road hit the media. Last week, federal judge Mark Fuller was arrested for beating his wife, and subsequently accepted a plea deal for professional leave, six months of counseling, no charges, and an expunged record. And controversy continues after video surfaced of NFL Baltimore Ravens running back, Ray Rice, knocking his wife unconscious in an elevator last Valentine’s Day. The 2014 Miss America pageant stirred that pot over the weekend, when a judge asked a contestant about Janay Rice’s decision to remain in her marriage.

On the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), it seems there is still work to be done.

For this reason, Vice President Joe Biden, who co-sponsored the law in 1990 as a senator from Delaware, will convene legal scholars and professionals, and Department of Justice officials for a Summit on Civil Rights and Equal Protections for Women. No date has been set.

President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law on September 13, 1994.

Summit participants will brainstorm solutions to end the gender bias in the justice system that affects the way cases are handled. They will also examine ways to allow survivors to sue their assailants in federal court – a VAWA provision the Supreme Court struck down in 2000.

In addition to the summit, the Vice President’s Office released a state-of-affairs report on the issue of violence against women.

“When VAWA was first passed, almost every state crime involving interstate elements (from gun crimes to cattle rustling) was covered by the federal criminal code – but not sexual assault and domestic violence,” the report reads. “Although there is still much to do, this anniversary gives us a moment to reflect on the vital, often life-saving work the Violence Against Women Act has inspired and supports. Since its passage 20 years ago, help has come on all fronts.”

According to the report there has been significant traction, both culturally and legally, on the issue.

The national rate of intimate partner violence against women has fallen 64 percent between 1993 and 2012, or 61 percent for Black Americans alone, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. VAWA-funded organizations have made gains in prosecution, and more services have become available for more survivors.

Today, VAWA has been expanded to serve LGBT survivors, those living in Indian country, undocumented immigrants, and college students. In 2000, the definition of dating violence was added to the law. In 2005, healthcare organizations received VAWA funding to offer long-term mental and physical care for survivors.

But there are still lingering issues.

As Biden highlighted at a commemoration ceremony last week: “We have so much more to do, because there’s still sex bias that remains in the American criminal justice system in dealing with rape – stereotypes like she deserved it, she wore a short skirt still taint prosecutions for rape and domestic violence.”

Additionally, against women and dating violence are problems among youth; researchers have found that 1 in 10 teens will be harmed by someone they are dating, and 1 in 5 young women will be sexually assaulted during college. Until 2009, women age 18 to 24 have had the highest rates of being victimized by intimate partners—currently, women age 25 to 34 have the highest rates.

The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault was launched in response at the beginning of this year. Its mission is to increase research and prevention, improve schools’ response to sexual assault, and to increase transparency on government enforcement.

There’s also the contention that VAWA itself doesn’t have much powed it is largely a federal grant program to help public entities do a better job of serving survivors, and support private entities that are already working around this issue. (The law also directs federal agencies to carry out already-existing laws and regulations).

Biden and proponents believe that in light of uneven law enforcement and judicial response at the state and local level, VAWA should be allowed to grant the federal government jurisdiction to enforce the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Additionally, other crimes involving interstate elements can be tried in federal court—this is not true for sexual assault and intimate partner violence.

In other words, survivors whose attackers have stalked them across state lines, or abused wives whose husbands have forced them to move away from support systems, or people who have been victimized via the Internet, must rely on state courts for justice. If they do not have a paper trail on their abuse along the way, it may be difficult to get a conviction for ongoing victimization, instead of a conviction for one incident in that state.

Since the 1970s, other legal figures and elected officials have argued that granting such jurisdictional powers would be to drag the federal government into “family disputes,” or overstep state rights.

In the meantime, the Obama Administration continues to produce campaigns, initiatives, federal guidance, and public resources to help eradicate violence against women.

“On the anniversary of this landmark legislation, we rededicate ourselves to strengthening the protections it first codified, and we reaffirm the basic human right to be free from violence and abuse,” President Obama wrote in a commemorative proclamation. “Too many women continue to live in fear in their own homes, too many victims still know the pain of abuse, and too many families have had to mourn the loss of their loved ones. It has to end—because even one is too many.”

Library of Congress Hosts Civil Rights Exhibit

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By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) –  In honor of the 50th anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act, the Library of Congress has launched “The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom,” an exhibition of rarely seen documents and oral histories on the push for civil rights.

A few things set this exhibition apart from the multitude of this year’s commemorations.

The Library draws from its exclusive archives of the NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, James Forman of SNCC, the recently borrowed Rosa Parks’ papers, and more. Visitors will see more than 200 noteworthy letters, photos, drawings, artifacts, and more, such as a page from Ralph Ellison’s draft of Invisible Man; a telegram from A. Philip Randolph to Paul Robeson discussing the lynching of Emmett Till; and the NAACP’s lynching awareness flag, which hasn’t been showcased in nearly 15 years.

According to the directors, this exhibit is also unusual for the library. It has more audio/visual media than any other exhibit has had before, and it’s the first time that media has been interactive in a temporary exhibit. Temporary Library of Congress exhibits usually run three to six months – this one will run a year.

By all accounts, every feature has been painstakingly chosen. Even the exhibit’s color scheme is inspired by the cover art of the iconic 1959 album, Mingus Ah Um by outspoken jazz artist and activist, Charles Mingus. (The album is one of 400 recordings preserved in the Library for posterity). Many of the items on display have a personal touch to them – there’s the founding document for the Southern Christian Leadership Council, typed and signed by Bayard Rustin, singed by what one could guess were his falling cigarette ashes. There’s a draft of the speech John Lewis, then-chairman of SNCC, was to deliver at the March on Washington  — typed-up and peppered with proofreading marks from veteran Civil Rights leaders who toned down his language. One page is typed on the back of an itinerary for the day.

“You go through a folder or a box with as many as 30 documents, potentially hundreds of pages. You have no idea what you’ll find. It’s a treasure hunt,” says Adrienne Cannon, African American history and culture specialist for the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. Cannon unearthed and handpicked many of the documents on display.

“We want to be able to make connections. If we introduce something in the 1940s   it’s –like taking a needle, making a stitch, picking up the thread – and 20 years later making another stitch or needlepoint that connects the two. Generally, that’s the way history works, all these connections.”

But what truly distinguishes the Library of Congress’ exhibition is that it ventures well beyond stock narratives of sit-ins and Freedom Rides.

“One thing that’s different about this exhibit is…that it goes beyond being an exhibit purely about the Civil Rights Movement,” says Betsy Nahum-Miller, senior exhibition director. “It shows what went into getting this piece of legislation passed and how long back that effort goes.”

The exhibit begins in the late 1800s with a prologue on abolitionism, emancipation, the Reconstruction period, and the first Black statesmen. Next, it explores segregation and the rise of legal strategies and grassroots groups, then WWII and the post-war years, when other oppressed groups began to agitate. Next, visitors explore the Civil Rights Movement and the passage of the 1964 bill. The last section explores the impact of the law.

“We’re showing petitions against slavery, the denial of civil rights and that struggle for freedom – through the law, through individuals who took the chance of lobbying, through grassroots organizations, and through the three branches of government,” says Carroll Johnson-Welsh, senior exhibition director. “The exhibition shows that as you walk through. We only have a small amount of space, but we’ve managed to show all these aspects.”

Visitors will learn about lesser-known key moments such as the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and the NAACP’s campaign for a permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission (a precursor to today’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).

They will also see contributions from Black women, international leaders, and non-Black people of color, via unsung figures such as Anna Arnold Hedgeman, Tom Mboya, and then-Rep. Patsy Takemoto Mink (D-Hawaii). Other marginalized groups who suffered under segregation and Jim Crow are accounted for as well.

“While we interpret the beginning of the Civil Rights Act as rooted in the struggle of African Americans to secure basic civil rights in this country, we didn’t want to make the exhibit simply about African Americans, because this act encompasses all Americans,” Cannon says.

Although this broad view of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is maintained, a rotunda depicting the days of political maneuvering leading up to and including the law’s passage is the heart of the exhibit. Through excited correspondence between Clarence Mitchell, director of the Washington Bureau of the NAACP, and Roy Wilkins, NAACP chief executive, visitors get a play-by-play on the introduction, attempted defeat, and landmark passage of the law. There’s even the teleprompter transcript President Lyndon B. Johnson read as he signed the legislation.

The exhibit ends with a corridor panel detailing the 11 titles, or sections, of the Civil                         Rights Act of 1964 – how the law has withstood time and legal tests, and how it serves as the basis of similar laws for other marginalized groups. Library officials hope to inspire a new generation to safeguard and advance the cause of American civil rights.

“I hope that even if they didn’t go through the exhibit…that they see those titles and understand the importance of what the Civil Rights Act is and what rights it affords,” Johnson-Welsh says. “We hope when people leave the exhibit they realize that there’s a lot of work still to be done.”

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