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Four Presidents Will Be in Austin for the LBJ Civil Rights Summit

LBJ Presidential Library at the University of Texas
Four U.S. Presidents are heading to Austin for the Civil Rights Summit.

Four U.S. Presidents headline a three-day summit in Austin this week, kicking off a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Life before the act can sometimes seem foreign to those of us who came after the landmark legislation was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Organizers say that alone is a great reason to hold a summit.

"Of course it's appropriate to look back. I mean, I myself am a child of the segregated South. So I grew up in that world and I know in ways that our students really don't, what things were like before this legislation,"  LBJ School of Public Affairs Dean Robert Hutchings says.

The major focus of the law was on equal treatment for the country's black population. But as the years passed, the law has seen a larger application. 

"Certainly in this state, the status of Hispanics is a major feature. There are other civil rights aspects too that really weren't major issues 50 years ago, but are now. And certainly gay rights are one of them, disability rights is another," Hutchings says. "It's a time to reflect on all these issues."

But of course the big draw at this event is the participation of four U.S. Presidents. Current President Barack Obama will be joined by George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

"All the Presidents have been involved in one way or another with civil rights in our country going back many years. President Obama, of course, would probably not be President today were it not for the landmark civil rights legislation that was sponsored by President Johnson," Hutchings says.

This week's summit is just the start of a two-year celebration of President Johnson's landmark legislation. More events will be announced in the coming weeks.

Ben Philpott is the Managing Editor for KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @BenPhilpottKUT.
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