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Civil Rights Act 50th anniversary

PENSACOLA -- In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law.
It outlawed discrimination on race, religion and gender.
It also required equal access to jobs, public places, voting and schools.

John Appleyard is 91 years old and has studied Pensacola over the years.
As a Pensacola historian, he remembers the vibe of Northwest Florida during the Civil Rights movement.

"We had a segregated school system, many activities that related to common mixing were segregated" said John Appleyard, Historian

When the summer of 1964 rolled around, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law.
It helped end rampant discrimination based on race.

"Its purpose is not to punish, its purpose is not to divide, but to end division" said President, Lyndon Johnson.

Appleyard says like many mid-sized cities during the 60s, it took Pensacola a while to adjust to the new law.

"I wish I could go on camera and say we did this in Pensacola in one broad sweep and was accomplished quickly, it wasn't it was a step at a time" said Appleyard.

"It was just the order of the day to do what is right" said Ellison Bennett, Civil Rights Activist.

Ellison Bennett has been outspoken on Civil Rights issues over the years.
He was 11-years old when the law was signed.
As a pre-teen, he slowly learned the significance of the landmark legislation.

"I understood the significance of what happened, and how important it was that people came together" said Bennett.

Bennett feels there's still more work to be done to end discrimination both locally and nationally.

"We can look at the prison system, the school system, or what have you that still has injustice still going on, even in the court system" said Bennett.

Like Bennett, Appleyard also believes more can be done to achieve overall equality,
but he feels the country has come a long way since the Civil Rights Act was signed 50 years ago.

"There's no question we have progress to make, but we've had great change" said Appleyard.