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Presidents, Truman, Eisenhower, JFK and Johnson Civil Rights Essay

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) was cautious in his support for civil rights oDid not believe legislation and court decisions could change people’s minds oFelt Brown v.

Board of Education served mostly to inflame segregationists oPursued instead a policy of desegregating Federal facilities and the DC school system •Southern politicians mistook Eisenhower’s caution, taking it as support for segregations oIn 1957, Governor Orville Faubus of Arkansas used National Guard to prevent desegregation of Little Rock Central High by nine Black students oEisenhower sent in 1000 paratroopers to enable the Little Rock Nine to attend school •Little Rock Nine would remain under armed guard for the rest of the school year Grassroots Activism against Segregation

•Frustrate by slow pace of change, Blacks began to organize themselves to take on segregation directly •Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott oWhile not the first act of civil disobedience, Rosa Park’s refusal to give up here seat on a Montgomery bus (Dec. 1, 1955), and her arrest, sparked a massive protest movement oUnder the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr.

, Blacks in Montgomery organized a boycott of the entire bus system until it was desegregated oKing began promoting peaceful civil disobedience as path to change oLegal strategy also followed – victory came with a Supreme Court decision in 1956 against Alabama •Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) – organized by King to coordinate desegregation crusade •Lunch counter sit-ins and the SNCC oSit-ins ?in various cities in the 1940s and 1950s, blacks had protested segregation by carrying out sit-ins ?

Nashville Sit-Ins – began in 1959, with students local colleges. Met with resistance oFeb. , 1960, students NCA&T organized a sit-in at lunch counter of the Greensboro Woolworth’s oThis gained national attention and sparked a number of similar protests across the South oThousands were arrested, but many public facilities were successfully desegregated oStudent Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) founded in 1960 •Freedom Summer, 1964 oOrganized by SNCC and other groups

oSent teams of white and black students to Mississippi to register black voters oMet with much violent resistance ?Three students were killed in one incident ?over the whole summer, 80 were beaten, 1000 arrests had been made, and 37 churches were bombed. oIncreasingly, the direct action of the SCLC and the SNCC replaced the court action of the NAACP Kennedy (1961-1963) and Civil Rights •Kennedy focused on expanding voting rights for Blacks

•Attorney General Robert Kennedy worked with SNCC and others to register Black southern voters •Kennedy also appointed large numbers of African Americans to Federal positions, including making Thrugood Marshall a Federal judge •Many activists saw Kennedy as to cautious, and direct action continued oFreedom rides – in 1961, activists began testing a 1960 Supreme Court decision banning segregation in interstate commercial travel oFreedom riders quickly met with violent mobs – Robert Kennedy had to send Federal marshals to Birmingham to protect them oAlso had to send troops to enable James Meredith to enter University of Mississippi – two killed in ensuing riot oin 1963, television coverage of violent attacks by Bull Conner’s Birmingham police on non-violent protesters organized by MLK shocked nation oJFK forced finally to take decisive action – called for major civil rights legislation •March on Washington kept the pressure on Kennedy to act oAugust, 1963 – 200,000 come to Washington

oMLK gives his “I have a dream” speech, cementing his place as leader of the civil rights movement But JFK was assassinated three months later – new legislation would be Johnson’s responsibility Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) and Civil Rights •A former Majority Leader in the Senate, LBJ was able to maneuver legislation through Congress that others had been unable to. •Civil Rights Act of 1964 oLBJ passed this legislation with votes from Northern Democrats and Republicans oMade segregation by race of public facilities illegal oEstablished the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to combat job discrimination oProvided protection for voting rights or African Americans.

oAlso made advances in prohibiting gender discrimination •The Great Society oLBJ ran for election in 1964 campaigning on a war against poverty oAs part of his campaign, he immediately began pursuing a number of anti-poverty programs, which came to be known as the Great Society oWinning in a massive landslide, continued to enact social legislation, such as Medicare •Voting Rights Act of 1965 oSaw civil rights, and Black voting in particular, as a key part of these programs oAgain, televised violence was key – police brutality against marchers in Selma led LBJ to call for comprehensive voting rights oCongress quickly passed the Voting Rights Act

?banned literacy tests in states and counties were less than half of population voted in 1964 ? sent Federal registrars to those places to insure African Americans got on the voting rolls ? dramatically increased the number of Black voters in the South •Immigration Act of 1965 oLBJ also pursued anti-discrimination in immigration oJohnson wanted to end the preference for Western Europeans and promote immigration of skilled labor oHowever, the Immigration Act of 1965 actually focused primarily on family reunification oAn unintended consequence was new immigrants from Asia, Africa, and Latin America bringing in large numbers of relatives oThe result has been a far more multi-ethnic country •The Breakdown of the Civil Rights Coalition

oEnding segregation and voting discrimination proved to be the easier parts of the struggle oAchieving economic advance for African Americans proved much more complex oRiots in Rochester, NY in 1964 and Watts (in Las Angeles) in 1965 made clear a growing frustration, particularly among young African Americans oRiots continued in various cities through the 1960s, mostly in major cities in the North and West. oBlack power activists began pursuing a more militant agenda ? Stokely Carmichael of the SNCC called for racial separation, direct seizure of power, racial self-reliance ? Huey Newton and the Black Panthers called for direct violent action – power from the gun ? MLK’s emphasis on non-violence and peaceful struggle has been explicitly rejected oMLK and Johnson fell out over King’s denunciation of the Vietnam War oMLK’s growing focus on poverty cut short by his assassination, April, 1968, leading to the worst riots yet

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