In 2013, the Equal Justice Society launched a three-year campaign observing the 50th anniversaries of four of our nation’s civil rights tipping points.

Aug. 28, 2013: 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington – About 200,000 people join the march and congregate at the Lincoln Memorial to hear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. Medgar Evers is assassinated and four young Black girls are killed in a bomb attack in Birmingham the same year. President Kennedy is assassinated in November 1963. The Equal Justice Society commemorated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington on Wednesday, August 28, 2013, at the Oakland Museum.

July 2, 2014: 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – The most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination of all kinds based on race, color, religion, or national origin. The law also provides the federal government with the powers to enforce desegregation. Earlier in 1964, the 24th Amendment abolishes the poll tax, originally instituted in 11 southern states to make it difficult for blacks to vote. The Equal Justice Society commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on September 13, 2014, at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Aug. 10, 2015: 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – This Act made it easier for Southern Blacks to register to vote. Literacy tests, poll taxes, and other such requirements that were used to restrict black voting are made illegal. This same year, Malcolm X is assassinated, the Selma to Montgomery marches take place, the Watts riots erupt in Los Angeles, and President Johnson issues Executive Order 11246, which enforces affirmative action for the first time. We commemorate this Act tonight, September 9, 2015.

Oct. 3, 2015: 50th Anniversary of the Immigration & Nationality Act of 1965 – The act marked a radical break from the immigration policies of the past. The law as it stood then excluded Asians and Africans and preferred northern and western Europeans over southern and eastern ones. At the height of the civil rights movement of the 1960s the law was seen as an embarrassment by, among others, President John F. Kennedy, who called the then-quota-system “nearly intolerable.” After Kennedy’s assassination, President Lyndon Johnson signed the bill at the foot of the Statue of Liberty as a symbolic gesture. We commemorate this Act tonight, September 9, 2015.


The Equal Justice Society is transforming the nation’s consciousness on race through law, social science, and the arts. Led by President Eva Paterson, our legal strategy aims to broaden conceptions of present-day discrimination to include unconscious and structural bias by using social science, structural analysis, and real-life experience. Currently, EJS targets its advocacy efforts on school discipline, special education, and the school-to-prison pipeline, race-conscious remedies, and inequities in the criminal justice system. The Oakland, Calif.-based nonprofit also engages the arts and artists in creating work and performances that allow wider audiences to understand social justice issues and struggles.