Civil Rights Act passed 50 years ago this week

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act, landmark legislation that changed this country.

Hundreds of people gathered at Flagler College in St. Augustine to celebrate.

Rev. Ron Rawls lead the prayer at the 40th Accord luncheon. "It think it's important to look back and remember the work that was done so we can enjoy things we have now," Rawls said.

President Johnson singed The Civil Rights Act July 2nd, 1964, just weeks after demonstrations in St. Augustine were seen on televisions and in newspapers around the world.

It outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It ended racial segregation in schools, at the workplace, and by facilities that served the general public.

Dr. Dorothy Headley Israel, 89, of Harlem remembers rejoicing when it was signed.

"I would not have been able to teach at a universities if it weren't for the Civil Rights movement," Israel said.

Dr. Robert Hayling helped lead the civil rights movement in St. Augustine, and was beaten by the KKK. He said there is more work to do, such as "desegregating" the churches. He said, "Because Dr. King said once, that 11 a.m. on Sunday was one of the most segregated hours in America. And I would venture to say that prevails today."

Rawls, now of the generation that came after the civil rights movement, leads St. Paul AME Church in St. Augustine. It's a place where Dr. King spoke often, and Rawls knows that carries a responsibility.

"It's a great weight on my shoulders," Rawls nodded. "And I have the choice to drop the ball or to honor those who came before me and pave the way to make them proud. That's my motivation."


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