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Civil Rights March, Washington, D.C., photograph by the U.S. Information Agency, August 28, 1963

Records of the U.S. Information Agency, National Archives and Records Administration

Civil Rights March, Washington, D.C.

Congress and the Court Secure Civil Rights

Congress and the Supreme Court have used their distinct but overlapping powers to define the legal basis of civil rights. After the Civil War and Reconstruction, violent intimidation and local Jim Crow laws continued to restrict black people, particularly in the South. Civil rights activists challenged those conditions, and in Brown vs. Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court declared school segregation unconstitutional. Over the next decade, Congress passed landmark legislation to end segregation and ensure all citizens may freely exercise their civil rights.

We must come to see with the jurists of yesterday that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” We have waited for more than three hundred and forty years for our constitutional and God-given rights.

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Letter From Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963