Magazine article The Crisis

50 Years Later: Still Fighting for Justice

Magazine article The Crisis

50 Years Later: Still Fighting for Justice

Article excerpt


Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law celebrates five decades.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy held a special meeting at the White House. He invited 244 of the nation's leading attorneys and asked them to help move the Civil Rights Movement back to the courtroom. From that historic meeting, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law was born.

Initially, the organization served as counsel in civil rights litigation cases in Georgia and Virginia, but soon the focus shifted to major impact cases such as voting rights. Today, as the organization celebrates its 50th anniversary, much of that work continues.

"Civil rights progress is not linear. People think you start at point A and move to point B, but in reality it is a zigzag," said Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee. "You can have a Black president and the highest number of minority elected officials. but be in the zag of voter suppression. The future of this country is highly dependent on how we resolve the racial contradiction."

Arnwine was a preteen when the Lawyers' Committee took shape, but her work as an activist began early. The first-born daughter in a family of 12 children grew up in Southern California. In high school, she had her first lesson in community organizing when she staged a boycott of the school's cafeteria. She recognized the power of one voice and embarked on a quest for knowledge.

In 1983, Arnwine, a graduate of Scripps College and Duke University School of Law, joined the Lawyers' Committee as head of the Boston office, where she introduced a fair housing program and added gender equality to the mix. …

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