RIGHTS BLOG: Updates from the Department of Human Rights

Celebrating the life of Jimmie Lee Jackson

Posted on 2/18/15

Jimmie Lee Jackson50 years today marks the anniversary of the murder of United States soldier Jimmie Lee Jackson. Jackson’s death is considered by many to have been the catalyst for the famed march from Selma to Montgomery which ultimately led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

On the night of February 18, 1965, Jackson, his mother Viola and his grandfather Cager Lee were taking part in the Southern Christian Leadership Council’s (SCLC) peaceful march protesting the arrest of SCLC field secretary James Orange. The marchers had planned to march from Zion United Methodist Church to the local jail. However, local law enforcement officials and Alabama state troopers met the protesters with violence. Some marches fled back to the Church while others such as Jackson and his family fled to local businesses such as Mack’s Café.

Jackson, the youngest deacon of the St. James Baptist Church, was shot in the stomach attacking to protect his mother. Troopers subsequently chased Jackson out of the café and beat him until he collapsed.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Jackson in the hospital. Jackson would unfortunately never recover and died eight days later.

Dr. King eulogized Jackson, reflecting that,

A state trooper pointed the gun, but he did not act alone.

He was murdered by the brutality of every sheriff who practices lawlessness in the name of the law.

He was murdered by the irresponsibility of every politician, from governors on down, who has fed his constituents the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism

He was murdered by the timidity of a federal government than can spend millions of dollars a day to keep troops in South Vietnam yet cannot protect the rights of its own citizens seeking the right to vote.

The SCLC organized a march from Selma to Montgomery and in a brochure explained that Jackson’s death was “the catalyst” for the march. On March 7, 1965, Sheriff Jim Clark orchestrated a vicious attack on demonstrators that led a network to interrupt its broadcast to show “Bloody Sunday.”

The senseless cruelty and depravity of local government officials in the segregated South depicted by the media fueled passage of the Voting Rights Act. Congressman John Lewis, who was one of the key organizers of the Selma march and who suffered a fractured skull at the hands of Sheriff Clark’s deputies, recently noted that without Selma it would not be possible to have Barack Obama, the first African-American President.

We celebrate Jackson’s life 50 years after his death for its indelible mark on the history of our country.

Selma to Montgomery and the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Posted on 2/13/15

The Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March ended at the Capitol Steps.This year marks a historical milestone in ensuring the voting rights of Americans, which is at the heart of our Democracy; the ability for citizens to engage and vote for the people who will represent them in government.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is widely considered one of the most important and successful pieces of civil rights legislation. It allowed thousands of African-Americans access to the right to vote, which had been denied for over a hundred years. The law would later be extended to provide coverage for other minority groups, ensuring that all citizens would have the right to have their voices heard via the ballot box. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965.

While the story of the Selma to Montgomery marches begins in early 1965, its history was steeped over 150 years. Voting rights begin with the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which granted all males born in the United States citizenship, equal rights and equal protection under the law without regard to race or previous condition of servitude. It was the first law written to protect the rights of African Americans.

Beginning today, MDHR will track significant points in the history of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 through social media, blogs, videos and a CTV television production airing locally and throughout Minnesota. Join us on the journey.

Workforce participation continues to increase

Posted on 2/11/15

MDHR Supervisor Michael Allan Johnson

MDHR Supervisor Michael Allan Johnson

Minnesota’s workforce participation continues to increase since the goals were raised in April, 2012 to 32 percent for minorities and 6 percent for females in Hennepin and Ramsey Counties.
MDHR has seen a steady increase in the number of construction labor hours performed by minority and female workers since adjusting the work force participation goals over the past four years. In 2011, the workforce labor hours were 12.69 percent for minorities and increased to 16.85 percent in 2012, 21.54 percent in 2013, and 27.52 percent in 2014.
Two of the largest construction projects in Minnesota history -- the Stadium project in downtown Minneapolis and the State Capitol Interior Restoration Project -- are exceeding workforce goals. As of Dec. 31, 2014:

  • The stadium achieved 39 percent of labor hours performed by minority workers and 9 percent by female workers.
  • The State Capitol achieved 37 percent of labor hours performed by minority workers and 22 percent by female workers.

Minnesota workforce goals vary throughout the state depending on the number of available workers. Current statewide workforce participation goals are available on the MDHR website.

MDHR increases efficiency in enforcement, conciliations

Posted on 2/6/15

MDHR’s semi-annual report to the legislature showed the Department is continuing to make significant progress in making its investigations process more efficient and its decisions in discrimination charges timelier.

The Department of Human Rights acts as a neutral investigator of complaints of possible discrimination prohibited by the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

MDHR continues to improve its investigation efficiency by closing more cases, reducing its inventory of cases, reducing the number of cases more than a year old and reducing the average time to reach a determination by 51 days. The Department also settled twice as many cases during the reporting period through its efforts to conciliate probable cause determinations between parties. By increasing conciliation between the two parties of a case, you are reducing the burden on the judicial system while reducing legal costs for those involved in the case. Conciliations also provide a quicker final case resolution than litigation in court.

During the reporting period, the Department doubled the number of cases conciliated over the prior six-month period. The Department settled 39 cases for a total of $487,625 in damages. In 2014, the Department conciliated a total of 55 cases for $631,450 in damages.

The Department’s average time to reach a determination during the period was 327 days. This is a decrease of 60 days from the end of 2013. The Department’s effort to close its oldest case files has been successful, and the Department now only has 31 cases over one year old. As of June 2012, the Department had 228 cases older than one year; this is an 86% reduction.

For the past two years the Department has closed more cases than it opened in each 6-month period. During the last six months (July-December), the Department closed 433 cases, which is 144 more cases than were opened. As a result of the Department’s effort in this area, the MDHR’s inventory has dropped from 842 cases at the end of 2012 to 436 cases at the end of 2014.

For its efforts and sustained improvement in closing cases, the Department received a Governor’s Continuous Improvement Award in December. The Department issued determinations 891 cases this past year compared to 790 cases in 2013 and 429 cases in 2012. The Department is closing well over double the number of cases each year than were being closed 5 years ago.

For individuals who believe they have been discriminated against, all of this means that their case will be investigated more promptly and a determination will be made in a timely way. This reflects the Department’s commitment to its mission of making Minnesota discrimination free.