Little Bits of History

Civil Rights Act

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 11, 2013
President Johnson signing the bill into law

President Johnson signing the bill into law

April 11, 1968: President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968 into law. This act provided for equal housing opportunities regardless of race, creed, or national origin. Housing discrimination laws do not mean that landlords must accept all tenants. Objective business criteria are lawful reasons for discriminating among prospective tenants. Bad credit and low or no income are legitimate reasons to not lease, but must be applied universally.

The 1968 act provided for the equal opportunity to buy or lease housing. In 1988, it was amended to include people with disabilities and families with children. The 1968 bill passed the Senate 71-20 with 71.2% of Democrats and 90.6% of Republicans voting in favor. The House passed it 250-172 with 63% of Democrats and 54.3% of Republicans voting for it. There was a statute of limitations giving wronged parties one year to approach the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) with complaints.

The 1968 act was a continuation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which was an improvement on the 14th Amendment that was ratified on July 9, 1868, two years after it was first proposed. After the Civil War, America enacted laws to ensure Due Process and Equal Protection to the newly freed slaves. The 14th Amendment gives a definition to citizenship which overturned the Dred Scott case of 1857.

Civil rights have been an issue worldwide. John Locke, an Englishman who lived in the 17th century, argued that life, liberty, and property should be civil rights and protected by the state. One way to assure your rights are protected is by having a voice in your government. In the US, the 15th Amendment (1870) allowed voting to all, regardless of race and the 19th Amendment (1920) finally gave the vote to women, as well. In the UK the Reform Act 1832 allowed 1 in 7 males (property owners) the vote. Over time, more and more men were given the opportunity to have a say in their governing bodies. By 1928, even women were given the vote.

“Nations begin to dig their own graves when men talk more of human rights and less of human duties.” – William J. H. Boetcker

“We need not concern ourselves much about rights of property if we faithfully observe the rights of persons.” – Calvin Coolidge

“I am the inferior of any man whose rights I trample underfoot.” – Horace Greeley

“Majorities must recognize that minorities have rights which ought not to be extinguished and they must remember that history can be written as the record of the follies of the majority.” – Lindsay Rogers

This article first appeared at Examiner.com in 2010. Editor’s update: Dred Scott was born in Virginia in 1795. He was born a slave however he, his wife, and their two daughters lived with his master Dr. John Emerson in states and territories where slavery was illegal. He sued for his freedom, along with his family’s. The court system heard the case and when it reached the Supreme Court, Dred Scott V. Sandford was decided against Scott in a 7-2 decision. It was decided by the Court that neither Scott nor any person of African ancestry could claim to be citizens of the US. Not being a citizen meant that he could not bring suit in a federal court. Just as an aside, the Court also said that living in a free territory did not mean that he was a free man and he remained the property of his master.

Also on this day: Coming to America – In 1890 Ellis Island becomes the national immigration center.
Elks – In 1876, the Elks were organized.
Joe, Not John – In 1890, the Elephant Man died.

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The Great Society

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 8, 2013
Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson

January 8, 1964: President Lyndon B. Johnson declares war, this time on poverty. During his State of the Union address, Johnson outlined ideas which he claimed would put an end to poverty. The Great Society he envisioned was to have the federal government taking a larger role in social welfare programs. His ideas were an extension of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and Four Freedoms from decades earlier.

The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 included many programs funded at the federal level. Social programs concerning health, education, and welfare were addressed. The Social Security Act of 1965 enacted Medicare and Medicaid. The War on Poverty was declared during a time of economic recovery. The poverty level had fallen from a high of 22.4% in 1959 to 19% by the time of Johnson’s speech.

There are economists who claim the overall effect of the War on Poverty and the Great Society has been negative. Milton Friedman, William L. Anderson, and Thomas Sewell have written about the negative economic effects along with the devastating blow dealt to the African-American family unit. The poverty level in the US fell to a low of 11.1% over the next ten years and has remained at the approximate level ever since.

The estimated numbers show the US to have a 12% poverty rate as of 2005. Taiwan has less than 1% of its population living in poverty while Zambia has 86% of its inhabitants living below the poverty level. Chad, the Gaza Strip, Haiti, and Liberia all have an 80% or above poverty rate. These poverty lines are national estimates which are deemed appropriate by local authorities. They vary widely by country. Richer nations tend to have more generous standards than the poorer nations meaning that the poverty levels in these emerging nations are truly devastating. In Zambia, 63.8% of the people must live on less than a single dollar per day (purchasing power parity) and 87.2% of them live on less than $2.

“If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” – Charles Darwin

“Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that.” – Norman Vincent Peale

“You can’t get rid of poverty by giving people money.” – P.J. O’Rourke

“Poverty is the mother of crime.” – Marcus Aurelius

“Almsgiving tends to perpetuate poverty; aid does away with it once and for all.” – Eva Perón

This article first appeared at Examiner.com in 2010. Editor’s update: Lyndon Baines Johnson was a Democrat from Texas who was Vice President under John F. Kennedy. He was thrust into the leadership position after Kennedy’s assassination. He had already served as both a Representative in the US Congress and a Senator. He is one of only four people to have served in all four capacities. The other three who also held these offices were John Tyler, Andrew Johnson, and Richard Nixon. LBJ died in 1973 at the age of 64 after having a massive heart attack. He died the day before a ceasefire was signed in Vietnam and he died only a month after former President Truman, whose funeral was Johnson’s last public appearance.

Also on this day: Genius Personified – In 1942, Stephen Hawking was born.
Teeny Tiny – In 1297, the Principality of Monaco gained its independence.
Zero Debt – In 1835, the US government was debt free, but just for a short time.