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Giving a Local Voice to the Civil Rights Act

Congressman Gerry Connolly embarks on yearlong history project to mark 50th anniversary of Civil Rights Act; seeks personal stories and testimonials.

Connolly Launches History Project

Next year, the nation will mark the 50th anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act. Last week, U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11) announced he is embarking on a yearlong living history project to gather testimonials and stories from local residents about the civil rights movement and preserve them for posterity.

In the coming weeks and months, Connolly will be asking Northern Virginians to volunteer their personal stories and testimonials about the struggles they faced, the successes they achieved, and their other experiences related to the civil rights movement.

Connolly and his staff will compile the material received and present it to the local school and library systems in Fairfax and Prince William Counties and the City of Fairfax.

“I believe our community can create a local and very personal archive on the civil rights movement in Northern Virginia that will be studied and cherished by future generations,” Connolly said. “This will be a community-wide endeavor that will preserve an important part of the history of our region, our commonwealth, and our nation.”

THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT of 1964 prohibited discrimination in public accommodations and banned discrimination based on race, gender, religion or national origin by employers. The legislation also created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate allegations of workplace discrimination. The enactment of the legislation is considered a seminal moment for both race and gender equality in the United States.

“The heroes of the civil rights movement fought valiantly for this legislation during what was a formative time for people of my generation and this country. The signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by President Johnson was one significant victory in the long struggle against institutionalized discrimination,” said Connolly.

Recently, a retired Prince William County teacher, who was one of the first teachers to integrate all-white Prince William schools, had an opportunity to meet another civil rights icon, Congressman John Lewis of Georgia. Congressman Connolly hosted Fannie Fitzgerald for the unveiling of the Frederick Douglass statue in the U.S. Capitol and he introduced her to Congressman Lewis.

“Mrs. Fitzgerald was one of the brave and remarkable educators who integrated Prince William County Public Schools a decade after the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Brown V. Board of Education,” Connolly said. “It is my hope that this project will preserve Mrs. Fitzgerald’s story and many others like it. I also welcome our younger generations to share their thoughts on how and why the legislation is important to them and how it affects their daily lives. Sadly, we continue to wrestle with issues of equality to this day, and the voices contained in this archive can be an important ally in the fight against discrimination.”

MORE INFORMATION will be distributed as the yearlong archival history project moves forward. Written statements with phone, address and email can be submitted to Congressman Connolly’s Prince William County District Office at 4308 Ridgewood Center Drive, Woodbridge, VA 22192. Call 703-670-4989 with any questions about the archival project.