September 7, 2007

SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE REMEMBERS THE FORGOTTEN CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1957

by Patricia A. Schaeffer, Vice President-Regulatory Affairs

On September 5, 2007, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) chaired a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “The 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and its Continuing Importance.” This legislation, which was enacted during President Dwight Eisenhower’s administration, was the first civil rights law passed since the end of the civil war in the 1860s.

The new law established the Civil Rights Section of the Justice Department and empowered federal prosecutors to obtain court injunctions against interference with the right to vote. The law also authorized the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

While disappointing to some who had lobbied for a much stronger voting rights bill, the Civil Rights Act of 1957 is considered important in laying the groundwork for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Witnesses at the hearing included:

Several of the witnesses testifying at the hearing called on Congress to step up their oversight of the Justice Department.

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