City leaders and elected officials joined came together in City Council Chambers to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The keynote speaker of the evening was U.S. District Court Judge Brian J. Davis who spoke poignantly about the country’s struggles with civil rights through its 238 year history. He reflected on the challenging past of the nation and its struggles to reach the Founders ideals of “liberty and justice for all.” Judge Davis reflected on brave individuals both nationally and locally who stood up to injustice and fought for civil rights for African Americans, culminating in the landmark 1964 legislation.
The program, sponsored by the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission (JHRC), included musical performances by Psalmist Cheryl Harris and a video featuring a photo montage of iconic images from the civil rights era.
Mayor Alvin Brown presented a proclamation recognizing July 2, 1964 as an important and pivotal date in United States history. The proclamation also acknowledged the founding of the JHRC in 1967 and its role in continuing the fight for civil and equal rights for all. JHRC Chair Walette Stanford accepted the proclamation from the mayor on the JHRC’s behalf.
“The Civil Rights Act changed our nation and our city,” said Mayor Brown. “Even though we now live in an America that’s more true to its promise of equal opportunity, our civil rights struggle is not over. As we remember all those who fought tirelessly against injustice 50 years ago, we must also commit ourselves to carry their spirit forward to make an even better America, an even better Jacksonville.”
Awards were presented to Jacksonville NAACP President Isaiah Rumlin and Rodney Hurst, former Youth Council president of the Jacksonville NAACP. Posthumous awards were received by the families of Rutledge Pearson, former state president of the NAACP, and William H. Maness, former Fourth Judicial Circuit Judge, who were honored for their contributions in the struggle for civil rights.