Mayor Miro Weinberger, UVM Humanities Center, Community Members Celebrate 50th Anniversary of Enactment of Civil Rights Act of 1964


July 2, 2014
Contact:  Mike Kanarick

Mayor Miro Weinberger, UVM Humanities Center, Community Members Celebrate 50th Anniversary of Enactment of Civil Rights Act of 1964
Launch of Mayor’s Book Group, to Explore Civic Life, History, and Culture in Burlington

Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger today joined together with the University of Vermont Humanities Center, community members, and other engaged partners to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. At a ceremony in front of City Hall, community members gathered to honor this important milestone in American history, and the City Hall bell tower chimed for a minute of remembrance.

“Today we remember the inexcusable injustices of the past and recommit to the unfinished business of ensuring equity in our City and in our nation,” said Mayor Weinberger. “These community conversations are part of the process in which we must all engage to fulfill the promise of the Civil Rights Act. We thank the brave community leaders and activists who dreamed for this change and worked tirelessly for it to become a new reality.”

Dr. Denise Dunbar, community activist and historian, spoke to the era of social injustice and political unrest that led to this landmark legislation. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, abolished unequal voter registration laws and racial segregation in the school system and in the workplace. Mayor Weinberger also was joined by community leaders and activists, representatives from the Partnership for Change, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington School District, Young Writers Project, area colleges, representatives from the Congressional and Legislative Delegations, and Burlington residents at the event.

“The Civil Rights Act was passed when I was 13 years old, and it had a significant impact on me,” said Dr. Dunbar. “It opened doors for people of all backgrounds and identities, but the work is not over. This dialogue requires courageous conversation that moves beyond colorblindness – to engage in uncomfortable, yet necessary, efforts to build community across difference.”

After the minute of remembrance bell-tolling, the Mayor added: “While we celebrate the 50th anniversary of this landmark achievement, our conversation does not end here. Today we are launching the Mayor’s Book Group, a growing partnership with the UVM Humanities Center to explore civic life, history, and culture in Burlington. I am proud to launch this community conversation on this momentous occasion, and I invite all Burlingtonians to join me in this effort,” said Weinberger.

In commemoration of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the first selection for the Mayor’s Book Group will be Todd Purdum’s An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Parties, Two Presidents, and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in which Purdum, a prominent Washington journalist, recounts the dramatic political battle to pass the Civil Rights Act. To join the book group and obtain a copy of the book, participants are invited to contact Professor David Jenemann, Co-Director of the UVM Humanities Center at The Humanities Center will work in coordination with the Fletcher Free Library, where the books will be available for pick-up.

Professor David Jenemann, Co-Director of the Humanities Center, stated, “The collaboration between the City and the UVM Humanities Center strives to cultivate engaged participation in our democracy while also teaching the lessons of history. We are pleased to support the Mayor’s Book Group by purchasing books for the first 200 participants, and we look forward to an ongoing series of exciting conversations about the defining issues of our time.”

The Mayor’s Book Group will promote thoughtful dialogue on issues of continuing importance to our community. The book group seeks to foster a shared City-wide experience through reading and offers members of the Burlington community a forum in which to discuss difficult issues. The first book, Purdum’s An Idea Whose Time Has Come, allows us to celebrate an important accomplishment in American history and civic life, while also examining the ongoing struggle for civil rights in our country. The date and details for a fall discussion will be announced later this summer.  The Mayor’s Book Group will select approximately three books each year.

The City continues to address diversity and inclusion issues on many fronts. On June 23, 2014, Curtiss Reed of Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity presented the Diversity & Equity Strategic Plan to the City Council.  Based on the work of the Burlington Diversity & Equity Ad Hoc Committee and the Vermont Partnership, the plan offers many meaningful recommendations to begin addressing inequities both within City government and across the Burlington community.

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