Tue Jul 07 08:27:10 PDT 2015
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Civil Rights Act of 1964 Celebrates 51st Anniversary
Blake Benberry

It was on this day 51 years ago, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a law that shifted the country in a new direction. The Civil Rights Act was enacted on July 2, 1964. While a lot has changed since then, some local residents told News 4’s Blake Benberry, there is a lot more to be done. Donnie Mae Powell never had the opportunity to march alongside Dr. King during the Civil Rights movement. She had to pick crops on Alabama farms for a living, but she always yearned to be there, fighting for racial equality. "Be out there amongst the crowd. Just like the rest of them,” Powell said. Growing up, Powell recounts a time when the living was not always easy, but she dared not complain. "They would whoop me too (because) my mama said she get out of place, ‘Whoop her tail’, well, they did," she explained. While Powell was making the most of the opportunities she was given, Oscar Duncan was experiencing a different reality as a young black man in the south. "It was a pretty rough time back then…you couldn't drink water from certain fountains and at the courthouse, the man would run you away," Duncan said. When the Civil Rights Act was signed into law on July 2, 1964, life was supposed to become a little less rough for blacks. The law ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Although that day served as an incomparable victory for the Civil Rights Movement, Duncan says there is still work to be done. "It picked up a little bit. That's all. It still ain’t too good out here. We still got some prejudice people out here," said Duncan. Despite the existing challenges, Donnie Mae and Oscar are filled with pride witnessing the remarkable feats of African Americans today. Looking forward, however, they can only hope true unity among all races will come to fruition.

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