Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



"The times," wrote Bob Dylan in 1963, "they are a-changin'." One hundred years after formal emancipation, blacks in 1963 were beginning to see the end of laws that prevented their full participation in American society. The United States Supreme Court had struck down the separate but equal doctrine, Congress had passed the first civil rights legislation in seventy-five years, and the executive branch was enforcing the law. Anthony Lewis wrote in the mid-1960s that "[n]o one could doubt that the conscience of America has been seized by the injustice of unequal treatment because of a man's skin." A women's liberation movement also grew with publication in 1963 of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique. A year' later, blacks and women gained new legal rights with passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The times were changing, and marginalized groups began to feel the winds of social progress at their backs.

This Symposium addresses the state of civil rights progress in America as a new Presidential Administration takes office. During the twenty-five years since passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including eight years of the conservative Reagan Administration, the civil rights agenda has undergone a profound re-evaluation. In the articles that follow, this Symposium examines the premises of the conservative philosophy on civil rights and considers four specific areas of civil rights concern: Housing, voting, employment, and women's status in the work-place.' Like a state of the union address, the articles are partisan, some-times passionate, and they do not address all areas of concern from all points of view. They add to the debate without ending it.Although the authors in this Symposium fall on both sides of the political spectrum, each believes that the civil rights agenda can still achieve social progress.