published Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Federal Bar Association marks civil rights milestone

Judge Curtis Collier presides over a naturalization ceremony in this 2009 file photo. Collier has announced plans to take senior status this fall.
Judge Curtis Collier presides over a naturalization ceremony in this 2009 file photo. Collier has announced plans to take senior status this fall.

Laws don’t come to life on their own — people with strong character and passion take a stance against injustice and suffer so that laws can be upheld.

“Civil rights didn’t happen by magic,” said U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier. “People made tremendous sacrifice. That’s why we come to celebrate.”

Collier and South Carolina state Rep. Bakari Sellers were the speakers at the Federal Bar Association’s 50th anniversary civil rights celebration Tuesday.

Hundreds of blacks, whites, attorneys, students and professionals listened to speeches, freedom songs and soul-moving music to commemorate the event.

President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2, 1964. It was landmark legislation outlawing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. It made it easier for blacks to vote and outlawed racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and in public places.

But it didn’t happen overnight, Collier said.

He recalled how longtime local NAACP leader James Mapp and other civil rights leaders who stood against segregation had their homes bombed after taking a stance against racial injustices.

The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments intended to end slavery, give citizenship to all people born in the United States and give blacks the right to vote did not initially live up to their promises, Collier said. People demanded that the laws be obeyed, he said.

Laws called for the end of segregation, but people like the freedom riders shed blood and even gave their lives before laws were implemented, he said.

Rosa Parks, a Montgomery seamstress, lost her job and went to jail when she refused to leave her seat in the front of a bus. Martin Luther King’s home was bombed and he died in his fight for justice.

Sellers encouraged the crowd to work toward building a community even when it looks like chaos is all around. He told young people to do their tasks so well that no one else can do it better. And he encouraged people to live by their better nature of hope, justice, love and peace.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yput or 757-6431.

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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