U.S. CIVIL RIGHTS COMMISSION VISION REFLECTED IN THEME OF NATIONAL AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY MONTH
As people of color mark National African American History Month 2002 with celebration and contemplation, the United States Commission on Civil Rights urges all Americans to reflect upon the legacy of African Americans as well as the theme established for this year's commemorative month: "The Color Line Revisited: Is Racism Dead?"
The poignant theme lends relevance to the mission and vision of the Commission. Since its founding in 1957, the Commission has played a critical role in answering questions regarding where America is on race relations and where it should be. As an independent, bi-partisan fact-finding agency, the Commission long-ago earned a reputation as "our nation's governmental conscience," maintaining its unique and vital role of shining a light onto some of the most difficult and complex civil rights issues facing the nation. It's hearings, reports and recommendations helped galvanize political and popular support for many of the sweeping social justice changes that have taken place in this country over the past few decades, from the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991.
"The Commission is dedicated to the actualization of an America that is fair and just to all of its citizens," said Commission Chairperson Dr. Mary Frances Berry. "For centuries African Americans have been denied their most fundamental rights, and particularly during this month, we encourage all Americans to honor African American contributions, but also to consider why this history of inequality is still a reality on many fronts."
An examination of the past century shows that the great African American scholar W.E.B. DuBois was correct when he declared in 1903 that the problem of the 20th century would be the color line. From the age of Jim Crow and "Judge Lynch," to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, to ongoing debates about the best policy response to persistent racial inequalities, the nation continues to grapple with the color line. And so long as it does, the Commission's work remains unfinished.
"As long as inequalities persist, we have a continuing need to battle racism and help ensure that our nation lives up to its highest ideals," said Dr. Berry.