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Law Day Program Features U.S. Civil and Human Rights

Mark your calendars! In celebration of Law Day 2013, the Law Library of Congress will host “The Movement in America for Civil and Human Rights.”

This program is part of the Law Library’s annual celebration of Law Day, a national day to celebrate the rule of law and its contributions to the freedoms that Americans enjoy. In 1957, the American Bar Association instituted Law Day to draw attention to both the principles and practices of law and justice. President Dwight D. Eisenhower established Law Day with a proclamation in 1958. For more information on the celebration, visit Margaret’s Law Day Guide.

Our event will begin at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 1, in the Mumford Room, located on the sixth floor of the Library’s James Madison Building,101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.  The event is free and open to the public; tickets are not required. The Law Library gratefully acknowledges the Friends of the Law Library of Congress for their support of this program.

Law Day 2013. Design by the American Bar Association.

Carrie Johnson, Justice Correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR), will moderate a panel discussion on the movement in America for civil and human rights and the impact it has had in promoting the ideal of equality under the law in accordance with this year’s theme “Realizing the Dream: Equality for All.” This year’s event is special in that it marks the 150th anniversary of the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In addition to the panel discussion, the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, handwritten by President Abraham Lincoln, will be placed on rare display at the close of the program for thirty minutes. The draft document was first read by President Lincoln to his cabinet on July 22, 1862.

During the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, Dr. King delivered his famous speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963.  Having reread the speech recently, I was struck by the following passage as it relates to this year’s program.

 In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

As a nation, are we living up to the rights expressed by President Lincoln and Dr. King? Are all citizens treated equally under the law? What are the next frontiers for civil rights and human rights? These questions and more will be discussed by our distinguished panelist – Sherrilyn Ifill, President & Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.; Jeffrey Rosen, Professor of Law at The George Washington University and Legal Affairs Editor of The New Republic; Risa L. Goluboff, Professor of Law and History at the University of Virginia and Scholar in Residence at the John W. Kluge Center in the Library of Congress; and Kirk Rascoe, Director of Opportunity, Inclusiveness, and Compliance at the Library of Congress.

Remember to follow us on Twitter: @LawLibCongress leading up to and during the event, using #LawDay.

Update: The event video was added below.

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