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President Truman ends discrimination in the military

July 20, 2020 in History

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Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) signed into law

July 20, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the most sweeping affirmation of rights for the disabled in American history at the time, into law.

As disability rights attorney Arlene Mayerson would later write, the story of the ADA began “when people with disabilities began to challenge societal barriers that excluded them from their communities, and when parents of children with disabilities began to fight against the exclusion and segregation of their children.” Activists explicitly compared their struggle to the Civil Rights movement, arguing that without federal requirements in place, the disabled faced discrimination both as patrons of public spaces and businesses and in seeking employment. In 1986, the National Council on Disability, an independent government agency, issued a report that reached the same conclusion, highlighting the many gaps in federal law that made full participation in society and equal opportunities for employment impossible for many disabled Americans.

Thanks largely to the lobbying efforts of Patrisha Wright, cofounder of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, federal legislation similar to a version of the Civil Rights Act for the disabled gained support in the late 80s. The eventual bill, the ADA, covered a wide range of physical and mental disabilities. The bulk of the act provides legal recourse against employers who discriminate against the disabled and set standards of access to public buildings and public accommodations (hotels, restaurants, etc.). It also established federal laws regarding service animals, among other things.

In March of 1990, a group of disability rights activists staged the Capitol Crawl, in which disabled people pulled themselves up all 100 steps of the Capitol building in order to highlight the nation’s lack of accessibility. Despite pressure from some church groups, who felt the ADA unfairly burdened them, the bill passed the House by unanimous voice vote and the Senate 76-6, paving the way for its signing on July 26 by President Bush, who said, “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”

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‘Good Trouble’: How John Lewis and Other Civil Rights Crusaders Expected Arrests

July 20, 2020 in History

By Becky Little

John Lewis was arrested 40 times during the civil rights movement.

Activists who practiced civil disobedience in the 1960s knew their opponents wouldn’t show them civility in return. Congressman John Lewis, a leader of the civil rights movement who co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, was arrested 40 times between 1960 and 1966 for protesting racist laws and practices in the Jim Crow South. During the first attempt to march from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights on March 7, 1965, state troopers and “deputized” white men beat him so badly they fractured his skull.

Lewis, who died on July 17, 2020 at age 80, often spoke of what he called “good trouble.” Getting arrested for trying to march across Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge—which bears the name of a Ku Klux Klan leader—was an example of this. Speaking atop the same bridge 55 years after the events of that day, known as “Bloody Sunday,” he urged listeners to “get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.”

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The Greensboro Lunch Counter Sit-Ins

Lewis’ first arrest was during a lunch counter sit-in in 1960. On February 1 of that year, four Black college students had sat at a “whites-only” lunch counter at a Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina. As expected, the staff refused to serve them; but the students refused to leave. They remained in their seats and stayed until closing. The next day, they came back with more students to do it again.

The Greensboro sit-ins sparked a wave of similar protests in which students protested lunch counters’ racist policies by publicly violating them. Lewis, Diane Nash and other members of the Nashville Student Movement began organizing sit-ins in their city. On February 27, Lewis sat at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Nashville where angry white patrons beat him and his fellow protestors and tried to pull them off their seats. When the police arrived, it was the protestors, not the attackers, whom they arrested. This was 20-year-old Lewis’ first arrest.

“I didn’t necessarily want to go to jail,” he recalled in a 1973 interview for the Southern Oral History Program. “But we knew…it would help solidify the student community and the Black community as a whole. The student community did rally. The people heard that we had been …read more

Source: HISTORY