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50 years since Civil Rights Act

The men were teens and believed the new law was enough. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal to discriminate against anyone based on race, color, sex or national origin at schools, workplaces, voting booths and “public accommodations.”

In 1964, the nine black teens from Bessemer, Alabama walked into the heart of their town, into a store with a small lunch counter, and sat down on the side previously designated for whites only.

Soon they were told they couldn’t sit there. Soon men with baseball bats arrived. The teens were hit; they fought back and escaped, but one was so brutally beaten he had to be hospitalized. The FBI “investigated” the crime, but supposedly the assailants could not be identified.

Five of the nine men are alive today and recall their story of courage and how that one act of courage changed their lives. 

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Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

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