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64@50: Student Reading Groups

Joseph S. Guzman

The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prompted considerable reflection in law schools across the nation.[1] As well it should have. The human, political, and legal drama involved in its passage rivals few other pieces of legislation in American history.[2] When combined with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, these pieces of legislation marked the culmination of civil rights leaders’ efforts to actualize the constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process for all Americans.[3] Yet despite the transformative nature of this legislation, it plays a minor role in the foundational law school curriculum. Instead, the achievements of the twentieth century civil rights movement are often taught through a series of Supreme Court cases spurred by admittedly brilliant appellate lawyers and legal activists who creatively strategized successful litigation tactics. No one can dismiss the magnitude of these individuals’ efforts. But often overlooked in this narrative is the role played by legislation, as well as the complex interplay of activists, policymakers, and interest groups who helped garner sufficient support to pass civil rights legislation in the face of obstinate opposition. To address these issues (and more), Columbia Law School students organized and led a seminar titled “64@50: The Civil Rights Act of 1964.” Continue reading 64@50: Student Reading Groups