OAKLAND -- Fifty years after Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, several of the Bay Area's towering figures of the civil rights movement are gathering this week to reflect on the road that led to the historic legislation.

Keynoting the Wednesday event is 82-year-old attorney Howard Moore, Jr., who was the top lawyer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s.

Joining Moore will be world-renowned Oakland activist Angela Davis, who Moore once defended; Elaine Brown, who led the Black Panther Party in the mid-1970s; and Clayborne Carson, director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University.

Activist Angela Davis speaks to protesters during Occupy Oakland’s call for general strike on Wednesday November 2, 2011. (Jane Tyska/Staff)
Activist Angela Davis speaks to protesters during Occupy Oakland's call for general strike on Wednesday November 2, 2011. (Jane Tyska/Staff)

The U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark bill outlawing racial segregation and discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. It passed the House of Representatives in February 1964 and the Senate on June 19, 1964. President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law on July 2.

Organizers say they plan to use the free event at an Oakland church to discuss "the gains and setbacks of the last 50 years and the ongoing struggle for full human rights in the United States."

Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson is hosting the gathering with the Black Elected Officials and Faith Based Leaders of the East Bay. Grammy Award-winning musician D'wayne Wiggins and violinist Tarika Lewis will perform; attendees will also glimpse excerpts from an upcoming PBS documentary about the 1964 Freedom Summer, when hundreds of students and activists flocked to segregated Mississippi to help register African-Americans to vote.


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Those who wish to attend can RSVP at http://www.civilrightsact50th.eventbrite.com.

The event begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Beebe Memorial Cathedral, 3900 Telegraph Ave., in Oakland.