The Civil Rights Division Celebrates 60th Anniversary

Saturday was the 60th anniversary of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. On September 9, 1957, President Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, creating the Civil Rights Division. The 1957 Act was the first civil rights law passed since Reconstruction, and was a first step leading to the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act the following year, and numerous other civil rights laws enacted in the years since that are enforced by the Civil Rights Division.

‘Since its founding, the Civil Rights Division’s efforts have helped transform the social landscape of our country and touched the lives of millions of Americans, said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division. ‘Today, the Division remains at the center of the effort to achieve equal justice and opportunity for all and to protect the most vulnerable members of our society.

At its inception, the Division focused on protecting the voting rights of African-American voters and prosecuting cases of criminal interference with civil rights. Division attorneys prosecuted the defendants accused of murdering three civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964, and were involved in the investigations of the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Medgar Evers.

The Division today enforces dozens of federal statutes that prohibit discrimination in employment, education, housing, credit, voting, access to public accommodations and public facilities, and access to government-funded services. While racial discrimination was the motivating purpose and central focus of the first civil rights laws enacted by Congress, Congress has included in statutes enforced by the Division protections against many types of discrimination, including not only race and color but national origin, sex, disability, religion, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and military status.

The Division has a leading role in combatting hate crimes, human trafficking, and excessive use of force by law enforcement or prison officers. The Division’s role also encompasses preserving the right to vote; protecting students and employees against discrimination, harassment, and retaliation; protecting the rights of persons with disabilities to equal access to public accommodations and services; upholding the rights of persons in institutions to constitutional and humane treatment; protecting the rights of religious communities to construct places of worship; and enforcing other important civil rights protections.

‘Several generations of dedicated attorneys and employees of the Civil Rights Division have built an institution that all Americans can be proud of, said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division. ‘But this work is far from finished. We will continue to work tirelessly towards a country that fulfills its promise of equal justice, equal opportunity, and human dignity for every single American.

More information about the Civil Rights Division, including its history, how it is organized, and its recent cases and activities, are available at https://www.justice.gov/crt/about-division-overview.