Panelists discuss Americas status after Civil Rights Movement

Nidia Cavazos

Historians, curators and political leaders discussed the current status of the African-American population within the U.S. 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 during a panel on Wednesday. 

The panel, titled “The Civil Rights Act at Fifty” and hosted by the Department of History at Garrison Hall, included Gonzalo Barrientos, Jr., former Texas state senator, Alison Beck, director for special projects at the Briscoe Center for American History, and UT history professors Laurie Green, Leonard Moore and
Juliet Walker.

Each panelist agreed that the U.S. is not at an ideal state in terms of African-Americans’ development.

Walker, the founder and director of the Center for Black Business History, Entrepreneurship, and Technology, said the business model in the U.S. is one key example where evidence demonstrates that African-Americans are not as well off as it was foreseen when the civil rights legislation was signed. According to Walker, there are very few black businesses in the U.S., and the white population continues to be the leading force in businesses.

“In 2007, it was determined that there were only 1.9 million black businesses in America, of which only five had business receipts over a billion dollars,” Walker said.

Moore said the existing model of athletic departments demonstrates how African-Americans remain “under” the white population, as many university athletic departments rely on the talent of African-American players to elevate their teams and, in turn, generate larger profits. 

“It is the plantation complex all over again,” Moore said. “We have black labor and white wealth.”

Both Moore and Walker said they did not see any correlation between economic and business development in the U.S. with the improvement of civil rights.

“We don’t want to confuse a change in the business model for the advancement of black rights,” Moore said.

Beck spoke on the importance of photojournalism in maintaining the memory of the civil rights era. 

“These powerful photographs can provide evidence, context and further details of the civil rights movement,” Beck said.