Why We Asked Experts To Annotate The Civil Rights Act

President Lyndon B. Johnson reaches to shake hands with Martin Luther King Jr. after presenting the civil rights leader with one of the 72 pens used to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964. i i

President Lyndon B. Johnson reaches to shake hands with Martin Luther King Jr. after presenting the civil rights leader with one of the 72 pens used to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964. AP hide caption

itoggle caption AP
President Lyndon B. Johnson reaches to shake hands with Martin Luther King Jr. after presenting the civil rights leader with one of the 72 pens used to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

President Lyndon B. Johnson reaches to shake hands with Martin Luther King Jr. after presenting the civil rights leader with one of the 72 pens used to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

AP

This Wednesday, we're commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act with an app that lets you explore the legislation in detail. We encourage you to peruse the text of the landmark bill alongside comments from journalists, lawyers, authors and others on how it evolved, and what it means to us today.

» Explore the comments on the Civil Rights Act »

Here at Code Switch, we're especially fascinated with how race plays out in America, and how that's changed in the recent past. The civil rights revolution of the '60s and its lingering effects have been a focus of ours (you might remember @TodayIn1963, for example).

So as the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act approached, we wondered what has changed about the country and its laws since 1964, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill. What ripples has it created in the intervening years? What does the bill mean to us today, and how does its language resonate with us?

A lot of us had never read the bill in its entirety before, so we pulled up the document and sought help from a slew of experts with backgrounds in law, journalism, history and social justice. They weighed in and made comments, bringing the text to life with their insights and perspectives. So we invite you to click around to see the lesser-known aspects of this historic legislation.

And hang with us for a bit, too. All summer long, NPR and Code Switch are reporting stories about "Freedom Summer" — the effort in 1964 to open the polls to African-Americans in Mississippi.

Like much of our work here at Code Switch, "Behind the Civil Rights Act" is meant to be a catalyst for an ongoing conversation. So please feel free to share your own stories, questions and insights on the bill below, in the app itself, or with #CRAat50 on Twitter.

Comments

 

Discussions about race, ethnicity and culture tend to get dicey quickly, so we hold our commenters on Code Switch to an especially high bar. We may delete comments we think might derail the conversation. If you're new to Code Switch, please read over our FAQ and NPR's Community Guidelines before commenting. We try to notify commenters individually when we remove their comments, but given that we receive a high volume of comments, we may not always be able to get in touch. If we've removed a comment you felt was a thoughtful and valuable addition to the conversation, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us by emailing codeswitch@npr.org.