The Civil Rights Act of 1964 at 50: Past, Present & Future


November 14 - 15, 2014

Room 103
Sumner M. Redstone Building

Boston University School of Law
765 Commonwealth Ave
Boston, MA 02215

This conference marked the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by bringing together a distinguished interdisciplinary group of scholars to address fundamental questions about the past, present and future of this historic act. The conference will invite historical consideration of the relationship among social movements, activism and law reform. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 served as a template for subsequent civil rights laws. The conference examined the evolution of prohibited classifications over time through amendments to the Act, judicial decisions, and additional civil rights legislation.

Speakers considered the impact of the Act on understandings of and expectations about public and private spaces and civic life and how subsequent civil rights laws continue to shape those expectations. What are some of the continuing challenges and controversies concerning ending discrimination in, for example, education, employment, housing, and public accommodations? Speakers addressed the problems that public agencies and private plaintiffs have confronted in proving discrimination under the 1964 Act and subsequent civil rights laws and will consider contemporary challenges in addressing inequality and discrimination.

For a full conference schedule, please scroll down or click here.

Click here to see recordings of the conference:

Day 1 (1 of 2)

Day 1 (2 of 2)

Day 2 (1 of 2)

Day 2 (2 of 2)

William Julius Wilson Keynote Address

Keynote Addresses:

  • William Julius Wilson
    Harvard Kennedy School
    Public Policy Challenges Facing the Growing Shift in Emphasis from Race-Based to Class-Based Programs
    Perceptive civil rights advocates recognized in the 1960s that removing artificial racial barriers would not enable poor African Americans to compete equally with other groups in society for valued resources because of an accumulation of disadvantages flowing from previous periods of prejudice and discrimination, disadvantages that have been passed on from generation to generation. Basic structural changes in our modern economy have compounded the problems of poor blacks because education and training have become more important for entry into the more desirable and higher-paying jobs, and because increased reliance on labor-saving devices have aggravated the conditions of untrained black workers. In short, once the civil rights movement faced these more fundamental issues, argued Bayard Rustin in 1965, "it was compelled to expand its vision beyond race relations to economic relations, including the role of education in society." In his keynote luncheon address, William Julius Wilson revisits Rustin’s argument and critically examines its application in the 21st century, as well as its public policy implications.

    (This keynote address will be given in Metcalf Small Auditorium in the George Sherman Union, located at 775 Commonwealth Ave, 2nd floor.)
  • Chai Feldblum
    U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

    Gender Equity: 50 Years After Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964Chai Feldblum
    In 1964, Congress enacted the landmark Civil Rights Act, which included provisions that prohibited employers from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion and sex. While many believe that “sex” was added to the bill solely as a means of jeopardizing passage of the bill, in reality the addition of the sex discrimination prohibition followed decades of debate on the issue of gender equity in the context of a proposed Equal Rights Amendment. Nevertheless, neither the country nor the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency responsible for enforcing the sex discrimination prohibition, was initially prepared for the radical changes in the workplace that such a provision would necessarily entail. In this luncheon address, EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum traces the remarkable developments in the understanding of the sex discrimination prohibition over the past fifty years, leading up to various cutting edge issues affecting gender equity today, including pay disparity, pregnancy discrimination and the coverage of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Reception Remarks:

"Now We Must Cross A Sea: Remarks on Transformative Leadership and the Civil Rights Movement"

For more information about the reception, please click here.


Papers submitted for this conference will be published in the BU Law Review.

For full biographies of conference speakers, please click here.

Full Schedule

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Registration & Continental Breakfast
8:30 a.m.

Welcoming Remarks
9:00 a.m.

Maureen O’Rourke (Dean, Boston University School of Law)

Linda C. McClain (Professor of Law, Boston University School of Law, and Conference Committee Chair)

Panel 1: Historical Perspectives
9:15 a.m. - 10:45 a.m.

Moderator and Commentator:

Bruce Schulman (Boston University History Department)

George Rutherglen (University of Virginia School of Law)
“Private Rights and Private Actions: The Legacy of Civil Rights in the Enforcement of Title VII”

Margaret Burnham (Northeastern University School of Law)

“Anti-Racist Movements and the Long Civil Rights Act: Dismantling Jim Crow in the Post-War Era”

Serena Mayeri (University of Pennsylvania School of Law)

“Intersectionality and Title VII: A Brief History”

Gavin Wright (Stanford University Department of Economics)

“The Economic Significance of the Civil Rights Act of 1964”

Panel 2: Classifications and Categories in the 1964 Act and in Subsequent Civil Rights Laws
11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Moderator and Commentator:

Kathryn Zeiler (Georgetown Law; visiting Boston University School of Law)

Joseph Fishkin (University of Texas School of Law)

“What Forms of Discrimination Should Antidiscrimination Law Reach?”

Michael Waterstone (Visiting Professor, Northwestern School of Law; Loyola Law School)

“The Disability Rights Movement and the Civil Rights Act of 1964”

Henry L. Chambers, Jr. (University of Richmond School of Law)

“Reading Explicit Expansions of Title VII Narrowly”

Courtney Joslin (UC Davis School of Law)
“Marital Status Discrimination 2.0”

Lunch with Keynote Address
12:30 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.

William Julius Wilson (Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor and Director of Joblessness and Urban Poverty Research Program, Harvard Kennedy School)

“Public Policy Challenges Facing the Growing Shift in Emphasis from Race-Based to Class-Based Programs”

(Please Note: The Lunch and Keynote will be next door to Redstone at George Sherman Union, 765 Commonwealth Ave., Metcalf Small Auditorium, Second Floor)

Panel 3: Reshaping Public and Private Space: Public Accommodations, Neighborhoods, and Housing
2:00 p.m. – 3:45  p.m.

Moderator and Commentator:
Jack Beermann (Boston University School of Law)

Len Albright, Jr.  (Northeastern University, Department of Sociology and Anthropology)

“Forty years after Mt. Laurel: Assessing the Impacts of Inclusionary Zoning”

Jeannine Bell (Indiana University, Maurer School of Law)

“Can’t We be Your Neighbor? Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman and the Resistance to Blacks as Neighbors”

Katherine Levine  Einstein & David Glick (Boston University Department of Political Science)

“Model Neighborhoods Through Mayors’ Eyes”

Linda McClain (Boston University School of Law)

“Conscience, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and ‘Legislating Morality’”

Joseph Singer (Harvard Law School)

“We Don’t Serve Your Kind Here: Public Accommodation and the Mark of Sodom”

Robin Fretwell Wilson (University of Illinois School of Law)

“Bargaining for Civil Rights: Lessons from Mrs. Murphy for Same-Sex Marriage and LGBT Equality”

Panel 4: Reshaping Public and Private Space: Education, the Workplace, and the Military   4:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Moderator and Panelist:

Katharine Silbaugh (Boston University School of Law)
The Civil Rights Act’s Mark on Title IX:  Sex Equality on College Campuses”

Deborah Brake (Pittsburgh University School of Law)
“On Not ‘Having It Both Ways’ and Still Losing: Reflections on 50 Years of Pregnancy Litigation Under Title VII”

Joanna Grossman (Hofstra Law School)

“Looking Back, Moving Forward: A Retrospective on Sexual Harassment Law”

Catherine Connell (Boston University Department of Sociology)
“The Right to Serve or The Need to Protect? The Repeal of DADT and the Challenges of Using Civil Rights as an LGBT Social Movement Frame”

Reception: Boston University School of Theology
5:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m
745 Commonwealth Avenue (next to the Sumner M. Redstone building)

Dr. Walter E. Fluker (Martin Luther King Jr. Professor of Ethical Leadership, Boston University School of Theology)

“Now We Must Cross A Sea: Remarks on Transformative Leadership and the Civil Rights Movement”

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

Panel 5: Proving Discrimination
9:15 a.m. - 10:45 a.m.

Michael C. Harper (Boston University School of Law)

Noah Zatz (UCLA School of Law)
“Special Treatment Everywhere, Special Treatment Nowhere”

Melissa Hart (University of Colorado School of Law)
“Information Asymmetry, Proportional Discovery, and Cost-Shifting: The Discovery Rules as a Barrier to Proving Discrimination”

Tristin Green (University of San Francisco School of Law)
“The Mirage of the ‘Monell Analogue’”

Pauline T. Kim (Washington University School of Law, St. Louis)
“Addressing Systemic Discrimination:  Public Enforcement and the Role of the EEOC”

Michael C. Harper (Boston University School of Law)
“Class-Based Adjudication of Title VII Claims in the Age of the Roberts Court”

Panel 6: The Limits and Future of Antidiscrimination Law
11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

Moderator and Commentator:
Khiara M. Bridges (Boston University School of Law)

Sonu Bedi (Dartmouth College, Dept. of Government)
“The Horizontal Effect of a Right to Non-Discrimination in Employment: Religious Autonomy under the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of South Africa”

Ruth Colker (Ohio State University, Moritz College of Law)

“Blaming Mothers: A Disability Perspective”

Vicki Schultz (Yale Law School)
“Reimagining Affirmative Action”

Lunch Break
12:15 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Box lunches provided. Open seating.

Closing Keynote Address
1:00 p.m. - 2:15 p.m.
Room 103, Redstone Building

Chai R. Feldblum (Commissioner, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission)
“Gender Equity: 50 Years after the Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964"

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For more information on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his contributions to the Civil Rights movement, visit BU School of Theology's website.