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Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer Delivers Remarks at the Justice Department’s Celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964


Washington, DC
United States

Thank you, Deputy Attorney General Monaco. As we gather to celebrate and reflect on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we have to begin by acknowledging the debt we owe to the countless individuals whose tireless efforts and unyielding bravery were critical in the fight to dismantle deeply engrained systems of discrimination and segregation. We are here today because of their struggle, sacrifice, and courage.

Sixty years ago, in his remarks on signing the Act, President Johnson recognized that millions of Americans were being deprived, as he put it, of “the blessings of liberty.” The purpose of the landmark Civil Rights Act was, he said, “to promote a more abiding commitment to freedom, a more constant pursuit of justice, and a deeper respect for human dignity.” We have made great strides since that time, but we must never let up in our constant pursuit of justice.

As the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General have highlighted, the Act gave the Justice Department critical tools to protect Americans’ civil rights, and we have heard about some of what the Department has accomplished with those tools. I also want to take this moment to highlight some of the enforcement work we have done in partnership with others, as well as work beyond enforcement that the Act has empowered us to do.

In so much of our important enforcement efforts under the Act, the Justice Department has worked alongside valued partners, including our colleagues at other federal agencies and outside civil rights organizations. We’re grateful to have so many of those partners in the room today.

For instance, we have worked with the Department of Education to combat harassment and discrimination that limit students’ opportunities based on race, national origin, sex, religion, and disability. And to address harassment and discrimination in the workplace, we have partnered with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC — which was itself created by the Civil Rights Act. These and many more partnerships illustrate how the Justice Department is working with our esteemed partners to achieve broad enforcement of the Act’s protections.

But enforcement tools were never going to be enough to make good on the promises of the Act. So Congress also created the Community Relations Service, or CRS, to be “America’s Peacemaker.” CRS’s conciliation specialists are trained to empower communities to mitigate tensions and develop frameworks for reconciliation. Signaling just how central that work is in advancing the goals of the Act, President Johnson said in his signing remarks that his very first step in implementing the Act was to nominate the Director of CRS.

So today we also celebrate 60 years of CRS’ service in proactively helping to resolve conflict in communities across the nation.

For the last sixty years, CRS conciliators have been both on the front lines and behind the scenes, providing mediation and facilitation services at most of our nation’s major civil rights conflicts. In 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference led a march in Selma in support of Black suffrage, CRS was there, mediating between demonstrators and law enforcement along the route. In 2014, when protests took place in Ferguson and across the country against inequalities in the criminal justice system, CRS was there. And in 2020, when Americans took to the streets in numbers not seen in decades to protest racial injustice, CRS was there, working in communities across the country to help stakeholders.

CRS has worked to reduce racial tensions in schools and helped foster supportive and inclusive learning environments across the country. And through its expanded authority under the Matthew Shephard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, CRS is helping communities prevent and respond to hate crimes and other incidents of bias.

The alchemy of peacemaking is tricky and demanding, but it was and continues to be an indispensable component of securing the promises of the Act, and CRS has always been up to the task.

As we spend the rest of the day reflecting on how the Civil Rights Act of 1964 shaped our country for the last 60 years, may we renew our shared commitment and partnership to fulling its mandate and our country’s promise of equality for all. Thank you.

Civil Rights
Updated July 9, 2024