Vivian Malone  entering Foster Auditorium to register for classes at the University of Alabama. Photo courtesy of United States  Library of Congress 's  Prints and Photographs division .
"It is better to settle these matters in the courts than on the streets, and new laws are needed at every level, but law alone cannot make men see right."

-John F. Kennedy, in his speech to the country on June 11, 1963.
In his inaugural address in 1963, Alabama Governor George Wallace called for "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." Six months later, Wallace stood in the door to block the enrollment of the first two Black students at the University of Alabama. President John F. Kennedy responded by giving his first public commitment towards a bill protecting the civil rights of African Americans, including the right to an equal education.

A year later, the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 put an end to lawful segregation, but prejudice continues to linger in American life today, particularly in the education system. More than 50 years after the National Guard were required to protect students trying to attend their local university, students of color continue to face obstacles on their path to an equal education. Learning Rights works to remove these obstacles, but just as Kennedy said on that day in 1963, "the pace is very slow".

We invite you to read President Kennedy's "Report to the American People on Civil Rights" from June 11, 1963. In this speech, he presents the moral argument for equality and takes a stand for the rights of the oppressed. While we continue to work tirelessly for the rights of children, particularly in equally accessing public schools, we hope this speech inspires you as much as it inspires us during this Black History Month.

Good evening, my fellow citizens:
This afternoon, following a series of threats and defiant statements, the presence of Alabama National Guardsmen was required on the University of Alabama to carry out the final and unequivocal order of the United States District Court of the Northern District of Alabama. That order called for the admission of two clearly qualified young Alabama residents who happened to have been born Negro. That they were admitted peacefully on the campus is due in good measure to the conduct of the students of the University of Alabama, who met their responsibilities in a constructive way.

I hope that every American, regardless of where he lives, will stop and examine his conscience about this and other related incidents. This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.

Today, we are committed to a worldwide struggle to promote and protect the rights of all who wish to be free. And when Americans are sent to Vietnam or West Berlin, we do not ask for whites only. It ought to be possible, therefore, for American students of any color to attend any public institution they select without having to be backed up by troops. It ought to be possible for American consumers of any color to receive equal service in places of public accommodation, such as hotels and restaurants and theaters and retail stores, without being forced to resort to demonstrations in the street, and it ought to be possible for American citizens of any color to register and to vote in a free election without interference or fear of reprisal.

It ought to be possible, in short, for every American to enjoy the privileges of being American without regard to his race or his color. In short, every American ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated. But this is not the case.

The Negro baby born in America today, regardless of the section of the State in which he is born, has about one-half as much chance of completing a high school as a white baby born in the same place on the same day, one-third as much chance of completing college, one-third as much chance of becoming a professional man, twice as much chance of becoming unemployed, about one-seventh as much chance of earning $10,000 a year, a life expectancy which is 7 years shorter, and the prospects of earning only half as much.

The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who will represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?

We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and a people. It cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is a time to act in the Congress, in your State and local legislative body and, above all, in all of our daily lives. It is not enough to pin the blame on others, to say this a problem of one section of the country or another, or deplore the facts that we face. A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all. Those who do nothing are inviting shame, as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right, as well as reality.

President  Lyndo n B. Johnso n  signs the  1964 Civil Rights Act  as  Martin Luther King, Jr. , and others, look on. Photo courtesy of the LBJ Library.

I am, therefore, asking the Congress to enact legislation giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public -- hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments. This seems to me to be an elementary right. Its denial is an arbitrary indignity that no American in 1963 should have to endure, but many do.

Too many Negro children entering segregated grade schools at the time of the Supreme Court's decision nine years ago will enter segregated high schools this fall, having suffered a loss which can never be restored. The lack of an adequate education denies the Negro a chance to get a decent job.

The orderly implementation of the Supreme Court decision, therefore, cannot be left solely to those who may not have the economic resources to carry the legal action or who may be subject to harassment.

This is one country. It has become one country because all of us and all the people who came here had an equal chance to develop their talents. We cannot say to ten percent of the population that you can't have that right; that your children cannot have the chance to develop whatever talents they have; that the only way that they are going to get their rights is to go in the street and demonstrate. I think we owe them and we owe ourselves a better country than that.

Therefore, I'm asking for your help in making it easier for us to move ahead and to provide the kind of equality of treatment which we would want ourselves; to give a chance for every child to be educated to the limit of his talents.

This is what we're talking about and this is a matter which concerns this country and what it stands for, and in meeting it I ask the support of all our citizens.

Thank you very much.
Click here to watch Kennedy's address or read a full transcript of the speech.
Thank you to the California Department of Developmental Services!

With their support, Learning Rights has developed a program to reduce racial disparities in the access of services at Los Angeles area Regional Centers.
Crystal Williams,
TIGER Teacher

 Crystal has been a Learning Rights TIGER Teacher since September 2014. She has also been teaching general and special education classes for more than ten years.
In March, Crystal will present with Learning Rights on "Battling Implicit Bias to Advocate for African-American Students with Disabilities" at the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates 20th Anniversary Conference.
Crystal Williams never left school. She spent her senior year of high school working as a tutor, and has since dedicated her career to helping students learn. While in graduate school, she took a course on Special Education Law and Policy from Janeen Steel, Co-Executive Director of Learning Rights. It was Crystal’s first exposure to Learning Rights, and soon she was volunteering with the organization and teaching TIGER classes.

Crystal has seen all sides of Los Angeles schools, having grown up in them, taught in them, and advocated for parents who are navigating them. Her experience and studies have informed her upcoming presentation, “Battling Implicit Bias to Advocate for African-American Students with Disabilities,” that she is giving at the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates’ 20th Anniversary Conference.

Crystal’s presentation is about disparities in educational processes and outcomes for African American students. She says one of the largest contributors to these disparities is implicit bias – unconscious attitudes or stereotypes that affect a person’s behavior towards others – on the part of teachers. Teachers with an implicit bias subtly project negative characteristics onto those that don’t look like the teachers.

Crystal says that many educators who come to Los Angeles with good intentions, such as Teach for America participants, arrive to positions without any understanding of their students’ culture. White, well-educated teachers without experience of the trauma that could be in their students’ backgrounds are shocked when students discuss their personal traumas casually, or engage in coping mechanisms that the teachers find inappropriate.

In Crystal’s experience, teaching from a cultural perspective can dramatically improve results for students. Crystal believes that schools must invest in training their teachers about their own and different perspectives, generational differences, and symptoms of trauma. The symptoms of trauma are vital, she says, because they can often be misidentified as disabilities. Research has shown that teachers refer students who are unmanageable for special education services, and that can have disastrous results for students who are then given an assessment that does not address their needs.

In addition to teaching, Crystal hopes to work with school administrations and parents to help bridge the gap and help students get the services they deserve. She continues to teach TIGER classes and work with parents to advocate on behalf of their children. Crystal dreams of having neutral advocates on-site at schools, to serve the students’ best interest above all others. “The research is out there, proving that this model would work,” she says, “now we have to find a way to get there.”
QUESTION: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed by which U.S. President?

A. John F. Kennedy

B. Richard Nixon

C. Lyndon B. Johnson

D. Hubert Humphrey

ANSWER: C - Lyndon B. Johnson lobbied Congress to pass the legislation after Kennedy's assassination in 1963.
Stat source: Greatschools, "Searching for Opportunity", https://www.greatschools.org/gk/searching-for-opportunity/