Past Forward

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"To Establish the Rule of Justice": 60 Years of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

February 21, 2024

The 1960s were a decade filled with turbulence and change. The country was beginning to come out of the fog of grief caused by the death of President John F. Kennedy, and the healing was still raw.

A reckoning had been in the works for decades regarding the nation's position on civil rights. From Jim Crow laws to Supreme Court decisions, change was coming, and not everyone was excited about it. The demand for equality was now.

This is CORE, Congress of Racial Equality pamphlet, circa 1959

“This is CORE, Congress of Racial Equality” pamphlet, circa 1959. / THF8258

The 1964 Civil Rights Act was pivotal in helping to create equality for all people. The act impact affected more than just the Black community in the United States; it also affected the Indigenous community, Asian community and gender equity and helped to lay the groundwork for the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Sign from doctor’s Office, Colored Entrance in Rear, circa 1950

Sign from doctor’s Office, “Colored Entrance in Rear," circa 1950. / THF153471

This pop-up "To Establish the Rule of Justice": 60 Years of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 explores the road to the historic act in addition to the legacy of that groundbreaking act today and how we might continue to create inclusive and fair spaces for all. The pop-up will open with one case on February 22, 2024; subsequent cases will open in May and June 2024.

We encourage grace, space and conversation to reflect on the challenging content of this pop-up.

Heather Bruegl (Oneida/Stockbridge-Munsee) is curator of political and civic engagement at The Henry Ford, and Amber N. Mitchell is curator of Black history at The Henry Ford.