Today marks 50 years since the signing of the Civil Rights Act in the United States. This pivotal piece of legislation outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. It ended unequal voter application requirements and racial segregation in general public places.

The bill was initially an idea of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, in which he requested a piece of legislation that, “[gave] all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public—hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments,” as well as “greater protection for the right to vote.

Economic Power Is Political Power

To understand the power of the Civil Rights Act 50 years ago, is to understand it’s silent negotiating partner in the civil rights movementFree enterprise, and business people.

Governments and public spaces were not nearly the first to desegregate, or to be desegregated. It was business that did this first in the South.

Dr. King was unique and special for many reasons in addition to his brilliance as a strategic thinker, planner, and marketer. For one, he was an optimist. He figured out what he was for, when most others simply knew what they were against. Dr. King also knew how to spot a trend and then leverage and utilize the untapped strengths of those around him, including his staff and key advisors.

When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus on December 1, 1955, she wasn’t trying to be a hero. But Ms. Parks catapulted Dr. King into the leadership of the movement for civil rights and, what was less obvious, made possible the first big a-ha moment of the movement in the period that followed. It was a silver rights moment.

Following the arrest of Parks, blacks refused to ride the buses, on the grounds that if they could not sit where they liked, they would rather not sit on the bus at all. For a time they even created their own transportation and taxi services to move the black population around the city.

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John Hope Bryant is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), and is the only 2010-2012 bestselling business author in America who is also African-American. His newest bestselling book is HOW THE POOR CAN SAVE CAPITALISM(Berrett Koehler Publishing). Bryant is a Member of the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans, and co-chair for Project 5117, which is a plan for the rebirth of underserved America.

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Inspired by an article today from Rolling Out Magazine.


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