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I have been asked to give a general overview of the Justice Department's work and policies as they have developed over the past thirty years. I intend to do that. But first I would like to go back more than thirty years-more than fifty years, in fact-to a century ago, 1883, to make a brief but important point. One hundred and one years ago, the Solicitor General of the United States stood before the Supreme Court and argued that black citizens had a constitutional right to the enjoyment of public accommodations on an equal basis with whites. Those arguments were rejected by the Court in its tragic decision in the Civil Rights Cases, a result that was not rectified until Congress passed the public accommodations provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. So the government of the United States and the Justice Department are not new to the job of seeking full protection of the laws for blacks and other minorities. During the last one hundred years, despite fits and starts, troughs and peaks, the federal government's finest hours in my estimation have been those when it stood, like Solicitor General Phillips in 1883, unequivocally on the side of efforts to rid this country of its shameful legacy of racism and other forms of discrimination.
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