Monday – Friday, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Governor's Reception Room, 2nd Floor.
New York State Capitol
Sixty years after the historic passing of The Civil Rights Act of 1964, this exhibition looks back and shines a light on New Yorkers who, through courage and determination, helped pave the way for millions of Americans to see their equal rights under the Constitution acknowledged.
Each individual and group highlighted here had crucial roles in building powerful coalitions that took the message and challenge to the street, the media, and the government. Concerts and benefits heightened awareness in the public and raised money to support rights workers across the country.
1964 was an extraordinary year for civil rights, but the battles that followed were hard, and many remain unfinished. In these, New Yorkers will undoubtedly be leading the good fight for justice.
In 1954, the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education ruled school segregation unconstitutional, but it was difficult to enforce in areas such as New York City, where non-legislated segregation often existed in forms of housing, social, or economic discrimination, also known as redlining.
After a decade of community leaders, teachers, and parents advocating for desegregation and improvement to schools with little progress, community leader Reverend Milton Galamison called for a public school boycott, and activist Bayard Rustin assisted in organizing it.
On February 3, 1964, in the chilling cold, more than 450,000 students and teachers either left school, stayed home, or marched to show support for The Freedom Day Boycott. demonstrations took place at over 300 public schools throughout the city, and Freedom Schools were provided at parks, churches, and homes by boycotting teachers.
On April 22, 1964, the New York World’s Fair opened, boasting of peace and progress, but many called out the glaring inconsistency with the fair’s message and the lack of equal rights granted in the state and nation.
Isiah Brunson, chairman of the Brooklyn chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), originally proposed a stall-in protest halting all traffic to the fair’s opening day.
The stall-in did not happen. Instead, protestors, organized by National CORE’s chairman James Farmer, picketed the fair’s pavilions and loudly protested during President Johnson’s opening-day speech, frequently interrupting with chants of “Freedom Now!” and “Jim Crow Must Go!”
The city and the state have seen fit to spend millions and millions of dollars to build the World’s Fair, but have not seen fit to eliminate the problems of Negroes and Puerto Ricans in New York City.” - Isiah Brunson (Brooklyn CORE)
1964 was more than just a pivotal year in the struggle for Americans’ equal rights. A fire had been lit, and after decades of activism, there was clear affirmation from the highest levels of government that meaningful change was necessary for the survival of American democracy.
In post-1964 America, civil disobedience, sit-ins, protests, marches, boycotts, and, unfortunately, violence served as reminders that many still do not have the rights, freedoms, or opportunities that others have.
But since its signing, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has been revisited and broadened many times. The following year, the Voting Rights Act passed, and in 1968, the Fair Housing Act targeted specific discrimination against people of color.
New Yorkers have exemplified and celebrated diversity from the state’s beginning as a Dutch Colony. By acknowledging the hard-fought battles and sacrifices of these heroes, they continue to be on the front lines for civil rights and carry their pledge of service into the future.