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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition
Long Road to Justice: The Civil Rights Division at 50

Foreword

The American people have traditionally shown high national regard for civil rights...But the need for leadership is pressing. That leadership is available in the national government and it should be used.

- President Truman's Committee on Civil Rights, To Secure These Rights, 1947 1

Momentum for the civil rights struggle has historically emerged from within the people and communities of this nation, but the federal government continually plays a central role in determining the outcome of this struggle. When Congress authorized the creation of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice in 1957, the federal government made a formal and ongoing promise to defend the civil rights of its people. It has honored this commitment over the last 50 years by enforcing anti-discrimination laws and by removing discriminatory provisions from its own policies and programs. In so doing, the Division has strived to reflect some of America's highest democratic ideals and aspirations: equal treatment and equal justice under the law.

We feel honored to have worked with the lawyers and professional staff of the Division during the time that we served as Assistant Attorneys General. We have experienced a strong bipartisan national consensus over the years regarding the need for federal civil rights protections and take great pride in the Division's response. It is through the Division's institutional knowledge and dedication to the promise of civil rights that we have been able to affect substantial and continued change. What began as a mission to strengthen the Department's resolve to end racial segregation and Black disenfranchisement in the South has expanded over the years to include protections from discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, sex, religion, disability, and national origin.

It remains clear that the work of the Civil Rights Division has the bipartisan support of both Houses of Congress and the American people. This bipartisan approach must continue, and the Civil Rights Division must not falter in pursuing strong enforcement efforts and relief. It was only through the resources of the federal government, and the credibility of the Department of Justice, that many of the more difficult and complicated cases were won.

Though questions regarding the Division's credibility and its precise civil rights agenda may arise throughout different administrations, the Division's fundamental commitment to equal justice and opportunity must remain steadfast. As President Truman's Committee for Civil Rights heralded 60 years ago, it must be the imperative of the federal government to enforce the law and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans. Today, which marks 50 years in the life of the Civil Rights Division, we commend its achievements and assess its limitations. We ask that Congress and the American people join us today in renewing our commitment to civil rights enforcement.

Drew Days
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
1977-1980

John Dunne
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
1990-1993

Deval Patrick
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
1994-1997

Bill Lann Lee
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
1997-2001


1. President Truman's Committee on Civil Rights. To Secure These Rights: The Report of the President's Committee on Civil Rights. 1947, 100.

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