AUSTIN (AP) — The LBJ Presidential Library announced Monday it’s hosting a major civil rights summit featuring at least two former presidents and marking the 50th anniversary of Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act.
Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton will speak at the event, to be held April 8-10 in Austin. Organizers are working with former President George W. Bush to have him give a keynote address — and President Barack Obama may also attend, according to Mark Updegrove, director of the LBJ Library.
“Fifty years ago, President Johnson’s vision for a more just and honorable America contributed to the passing of the Civil Rights Act, the most transformational civil rights legislation since Reconstruction and a crucial step in the realization of America’s promise,” Updegrove said in a statement. “But his vision went far beyond ending racial discrimination. He believed that education, economic opportunity, health care, clean air and water, and access to the arts and humanities, among other things, were inherent civil rights for all Americans — and it’s reflected in his legislative legacy.”
In announcing the event, the LBJ Library said the summit will both look back at the movement and address the issues still lingering in the U.S. and globally. Panel discussions will feature civil rights leaders, academics and LBJ’s daughters, Luci Baines Johnson and Lynda Johnson Robb.
Wilhelmina Delco was the first African American elected to public office in Austin. She also served in the state legislature.
“And I applaud the LBJ School for bringing this to the forefront and saying: these are some of the things that were supposed to have happened. Where are we now,” said Delco.
Delco remembers the security when then President Richard Nixon came to town in 1971 for the dedication of the LBJ Library.
Delco says this upcoming gathering is more than a crowd-drawing event for Austin.
“It isn’t a matter of just accumulating people to use the restaurants and hotels,” Delco said. “It’s to hear a message and to put in perspective what has gone before and where we have yet to go.”
The summit comes as Johnson’s family revisits his legacy, attempting to lift the shadow the Vietnam War cast on his domestic agenda. Subsequent events in coming years will mark the 50th anniversaries of other Johnson initiatives, including Medicare, the Clean Air Act, seatbelt requirements and health warnings on cigarettes.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned widespread discrimination against racial and ethnic minorities and against women. It was followed a year later by the Voting Rights Act, which ensured full citizenship for African-Americans.
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