Civil Rights at 50
By Eva Jefferson Paterson, Bryan Schwartz, and Danielle Tizol Fong
Eva Jefferson Paterson is the President and Founder of the Equal Justice Society, a leading national voice on civil rights. She previously served as the long-time Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. As the 20 year-old Student Body President of Northwestern University, she debated then-Vice-President Spiro Agnew on live television regarding the role of student protesters. Bryan Schwartz is a leader of the State Bar’s Labor and Employment Law Section Executive Committee, and an Executive Board Member of the California Employment Lawyers Association. His Oakland-based firm (www.BryanSchwartzLaw.com) represents workers in discrimination, harassment, whistleblower, and wage claims. Danielle Tizol Fong is the Human Resource Manager for a non-profit in San Francisco and a volunteer attorney for the Equal Justice Society. Previously, she has represented employees and employers in employment discrimination and wage and hour litigation, and has advised employers pre-litigation.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted fifty years ago this month. The three authors of this article come from different backgrounds, but this historic legislation has been equally momentous in each of our lives. Although only one of us was born when Plessy v. Ferguson was the law, none of us takes civil rights for granted.
The authors are from communities that experienced invidious job discrimination. Our Black, Jewish, Puerto Rican, and Chinese families suffered in America because of immutable characteristics. The women in our families also were held back in their careers because of stereotypes. Title VII of the Act was designed to abolish employment discrimination, and has provided us, along with millions of other Americans, a vehicle for redress and redemption unlike any other.