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Freedom Summer and Civil Rights Act of 1964: Florida State University Experts Available to Comment on 50th Anniversaries

Released: 18-Jun-2014 4:00 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: Florida State University
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Florida State University’s noted authorities on civil rights and American history are available to answer media questions and provide analysis of the 50th anniversaries of Freedom Summer and the Civil Rights Act.

Freedom Summer was an effort to dramatically increase voter registration among African-Americans in Mississippi. Three activists were killed June 21, 1964, during a summer marked by violence. The Civil Rights Act was a landmark piece of legislation signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2, 1964, that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. It also ended racial segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination.

• Davis Houck, professor in the School of Communication: (850) 980-2656; dhouck@fsu.edu or davishouck@hotmail.com

Houck’s expertise is on political advertising, news coverage and speech making. He is also an expert on the American civil rights movement, war rhetoric, propaganda and media campaigns. He helped research a documentary series about unsolved murders of black civil rights activists and co-edited “In Rhetoric, Religion and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965,” a collection of speeches given by lesser known players in the civil rights movement.

"Even as President Lyndon Johnson was signing one of the most important civil rights bills in U.S. history on July 2, members of the U.S. Navy and Federal Bureau of Investigation were frantically searching for three missing civil rights workers: Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney," Houck said. "The three men had gone missing on June 21, just hours after leaving a week-long training workshop in Oxford, Ohio. Their bodies would eventually be recovered on August 4, buried in an earthen dam just outside of Philadelphia, Miss. Civil rights leaders had indeed warned Johnson that federal protection was needed given the repeated threats of violence. Tensions between the federal government and civil rights workers would prove to be a hallmark of what has become known as Freedom Summer."

• Franita Tolson, Betty T. Ferguson Professor of Voting Rights in the College of Law: (850) 644-7402; ftolson@law.fsu.edu

Tolson’s areas of expertise include election law, constitutional law, legal history and employment discrimination. Her research has been published in leading law reviews, and she has written or appeared as a commentator for various mass media outlets.

“The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is responsible for eradicating much of the discrimination that minorities have faced in almost every walk of life including employment, public education, and public accommodations like restaurants and theaters,” Tolson said. “Its 50th anniversary invites us to revisit not only its success but also the continued need for the act to ensure that the most vulnerable members of society continue to have access to the American dream. In recent years, its provisions have faced significant legal challenges, and civil rights advocates must remain vigilant so that progress can continue for years to come.”

• Patrick L. Mason, professor in the Department of Economics: (850) 644-9146 or (850) 668-2060; pmason@fsu.edu

Mason is professor of economics and director of the African-American Studies Program. His primary areas of expertise include labor, political economy, development, education, social identity and crime. He is particularly interested in racial inequality, educational achievement, income distribution, unemployment, economics of identity, family environment and socioeconomic well-being. Mason is also the general editor of the International Encyclopedia of Race and Racism and has authored more than 90 journal articles, book chapters, books and other professional publications.

“There was tremendous educational, economic, political and social progress in the decade following the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But, this progress was not without costs,” Mason said. “Desegregation brought an end to many African-American institutions without providing full and equal access to white-controlled institutions. In any event, the deep recession of 1973-1975 slowed African-American wage improvement relative to whites in the South and there was not much improvement outside of the South during the first decade after the end of Jim Crow. The recessions of 1979-1982 and the often overtly racially hostile political climate ushered in by the Reagan administration brought economic progress to a halt.

“It would take more than a generation before American society began to experience modest improvement in racial economic equality. Slavery and Jim Crow created an enormous racial wealth gap. Inherited wealth and other intergenerational transfers of wealth and social advantages are important mechanisms for transmitting past inequality into the future. Hence, wealth inequality and continuing racial discrimination in the present indicates there is much more work to be done — even as the Civil Rights of Act of 1964 helped create an America very different from the country that had previously existed for the century prior to the act.”

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