Honoring the Civil Rights Act - Hindu American Foundation
On The Issues

Honoring the Civil Rights Act

By July 2, 2014 September 21st, 2020 3 Comments

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act, which would become one of the most significant pieces of legislation in American history.

The law would enshrine equality of access for African-Americans and other minorities while effectively ending Jim Crow laws that had been used to keep blacks from participating in the public sphere. And though it would take nearly another decade before the law was fully recognized in every part of the country (some areas still fiercely resisted its implementation), its impact has been felt in every sector of American life.

The Hindu American Foundation has benefited in many ways from the passage of the Act, and of the sacrifices of those like the Freedom Riders, who experienced physical harm in an effort to ensure equality for all Americans. Heroes such as Rep. John Lewis, who was nearly beaten to death for his role in organizing the Freedom Rides, have embodied the concepts of seva and ahimsa as means for facilitating social change. His willingness to give up his body for a greater cause ensured that all Americans would benefit from equality.

The Civil Rights Act would lead to the repeal of the Asian Exclusion Act a year later, allowing for the immigration of Hindus from the Indian subcontinent and regions such as the West Indies and Southeast Asia. That first wave of immigrants who came to the United States would become those who set up the first Hindu institutions, including temples and cultural centers, without systemic barriers such as racial exclusion laws preventing them from doing so.

HAF was founded by the American-born children of that first wave of immigrants, which is why Hindu Americans and other groups are indebted to the heroes of the Civil Rights movement. At a time when racism was vitriolic and when civil rights leaders faced significant opposition, there were many reasons to be hesitant. Instead, the Freedom Riders and other heroes of different colors and faiths pushed forward, and their efforts were rewarded with President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the act.

While we are forever grateful for the passage of the act, our work as Americans is far from over, especially at a time when citizenship, voting rights, and other basic measures of equality have come under attack in some states and in the courts. Perhaps we can use the legacy of the Freedom Summer to push for the full implementation of the change we wish to see. By doing so, we would be giving the ultimate tribute to those who sacrificed so much for the betterment of all.


Leave a Reply

10/28/22Dr. Anandibai Joshi

Dr. Anandi Gopal Joshi is credited with being the first woman from India to study medicine in the United States. Born in Bombay in 1865, she was married at the age of ten to an older man who had been her teacher. Dr. Joshi had a child at the age of 13, but the child died when only 10 days old. She believed that with better medical care, the child would have lived, and she frequently cited this as motivation for her desire to attend medical school. Her husband encouraged her in her academic pursuits and in 1883, Joshee joined the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, now known as the Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. She graduated in 1886 with her degree in medicine; her M.D. thesis focused on Hindu obstetrics. Unfortunately,  Dr. Joshi was only able to practice medicine for a few months before passing away from tuberculosis.

Science in Hinduism

10/2/2022Gandhi Jayanti

Gandhi Jayanti marks the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, the ‘Father of the Nation’ for India and the Indian Diaspora. To honor Gandhi’s message of ahimsa (non-violence), volunteer events and commemorative ceremonies are conducted and statues of Gandhi are also decorated with flower garlands. Gandhi and the satyagraha (truth force) has inspired many of America’s most prominent civil rights and social impact movements and leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., and Cesar Chavez. The United Nations declared October 2 as the International Day of Non-Violence in honor of Gandhi, whose work continues to inspire civil rights movements across the world.

Examining the Impact of Mahatma Gandhi on Social Change Movements

Why we should not tear down statues of Gandhi

10/1/2022First Hindu temple in US

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 facilitated the journey of many Indian immigrants to the United States. In this new land, many created home shrines and community temples to practice and hold pujas (services). As Hindu American populations grew in metropolitan and rural areas, so did the need to find a permanent temple site for worship. In 1906, the Vedanta Society built the Old Temple in San Francisco, California but as this was not considered a formal temple, many don’t credit this with being the first. Others believe it is the Shiva Murugan Temple built in 1957 in Concord, California, whereas others believe it is the Maha Vallabha Ganapati Devanstanam in New York that should be considered the first. Today, there are nearly 1,000 temples in the United States . Regardless of where you live, you have the right to practice your faith.

A Guide To Temple Safety and Security

5 Things to Know About Visiting a Hindu Temple