The Hubert H. Humphrey Civil and Human Rights Award is presented by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to those who best exemplify “selfless and devoted service in the cause of equality.”
Hubert H. Humphrey believed that it was the duty of the government to improve the quality of life for all Americans. A relentless advocate of civil rights, Humphrey understood that “equality means equality for all – no exceptions, no ‘yes, buts,’ no asterisked footnotes imposing limits.”
Bursting onto the political scene in 1945 as mayor of Minneapolis, under the weight of Jim Crow laws, Humphrey lifted the issues of social justice and civil rights to the state and national stages. In 1948, he delivered an impassioned speech at the Democratic National Convention, urging that a strong civil rights plank be included in the Democratic platform, his words instrumental in how both the Democratic and Republican parties addressed issues of equality.
From 1948-1964, Humphrey served as one of the most distinguished U.S. senators in Minnesota’s history. Re-elected to the Senate in 1954 and in 1960, Humphrey led the fight to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, calling its passage “one of the landmarks of my life.” Humphrey worked on behalf of people from all walks of life; a champion for equality in education, employment, and housing.
Elected Vice President of the United States in 1964, Hubert Humphrey was integral to the passage of principal civil rights legislation, including the Fair Housing Act of 1968. He was instrumental in creating the first Department of Housing and Urban Development and initiated the Model Cities program. He asserted that “people of all races and backgrounds must have the opportunity to purchase or rent housing.”
Humphrey addressed the “…tendency – to which we Americans are prone – to think that it is sufficient to put laws in the statute books.” “It is not,” he asserted. “Laws must be enforced…Far too often the promise of legal rights has only made the lack of real opportunity more bitter and more frustrating…What does the promise of open housing mean to a poor family when it can’t find decent low-income housing?”
The Hubert H. Humphrey Civil and Human Rights Award was established by The Leadership Conference in 1977 to honor Hubert Humphrey and those who emulate his dedication to and passion for civil rights. His words still echo in our continuing fight to advance equality, and the Humphrey Award is the civil rights community’s highest honor.