I was planning to write about the four books published between 1962 and 1965 that tried to change, and sometimes did, the world we live in: Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (1962); Michael Harrington, The Other America: Poverty in the United States (1962); Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique(1963); and Ralph Nader, Unsafe At Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile (1965). And then I looked at my comments, and found this response to my defense of Lyndon Baines Johnson in the comment section of brooklynbadboy's diary, New York Times' presidential arm-twisting story misses mark:
LBJ had 68 Dem Senators, Cloture of 66. (0+ / 0-)Okay, this proves that some of the people who read the diary understood that LBJ couldn't count on a big hunk of those Democrats on a Civil Rights bill (since the comment hasn't been tipped), but since one Kossack didn't, here's a discussion of how this bill came into existence and what it had to go through to become law.
We have to go back into the Kennedy years for this, and a strategic decision by the leaders of the civil rights movement. In 1961, Martin Luther King, Jr,and the older civil rights leaders of CORE and SCLC had begun a program to integrate Atlanta that ended with success September 27. The desegregation of Atlanta had led to the desegregation of around 200 other towns and cities, but the cities of the Deep South refused to budge. So the leadership of the movement searched for a new strategy. They decided to stake the future of their leadership on Birmingham, perhaps the most segregated city in the South. Project C (for confrontation) began in April 1963; King was almost immediately arrested and jailed for a defying state injunction against further protest marches. That experience produced his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, an indictment of conservative black ministers who deplored the tactics the civil rights movement was using, although not in public the way today's "conservative" ministers have no problem contradicting the NAACP for its stance on marriage equality.
With King in jail, the protests went on. On May 3, television cameras watched as Bull Connor’s police force used firehoses
On CBS, the commentator Eric Sevareid, said
A newspaper or television picture of a snarling police dog set upon a human being is recorded in the permanent photoelectric file of every human brain.The President, “sick” from what had happened, demanded that Birmingham’s white business, political leaders stop the horrors and negotiate a settlement with the African American community. The white leaders of Birmingham agreed to desegregate public accommodations in Birmingham, and make a token improvement in black employment opportunities
Over the next ten weeks, 758 civil rights demonstrations broke out in cities across the country, and Kennedy knew he had to do more to restore order and to assist the leadership of the civil rights movement. He was presented with the opportunity to do so by the governor of Alabama, George Wallace, who had decided literally and personally to block the court-ordered integration of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, the final remaining all-white state university.
We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the Scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.In the same speech, saying that the time had come for a national commitment to the proposition that race has no place in American life or law, JFK asked Congress to pass a civil rights law that included provisions for desegregating public accommodations, granting the Attorney General authority to initiate school-desegregation suits, establishing a Community Relations service to prevent racial conflicts, improving the economic status of blacks, and empowering government to withhold funds from federal programs and facilities in which discrimination occurred. The administration sent their formal request to Congress the next week, and Congressional liberals added provisions for a permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission and for federal registrars to enroll black voters. And what happened? A REAL filibuster. Here's Senator Strom Thurmond (D-SC) waving to the press after standing on the Senate floor for 24 hours and 11 minutes.
The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?
One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression, and this nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.
We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home; but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is a land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettoes, no master race except with respect to Negroes?
Now the time has come for this nation to fulfill its promise. The events in Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased the cries for equality that no city or state or legislative body can prudently choose to ignore them. The fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city, North and South, where legal remedies are not at hand. Redress is sought in the streets, in demonstrations, parades, and protests, which create tensions and threaten violence and threaten lives.
We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and as a people. It cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is a time to act in the Congress, in your state and local legislative body and, above all, in all of our daily lives.
The speech transformed what had been an amiable effort at lobbying Congress into the high-water mark of the black struggle for freedom. Two weeks later, on September 15, another group of white terrorists bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, killing four little girls and wounding 22 other people.
The House Judiciary Committee continued to work on the bill, and reported it out of committee in late November. As it approached the inevitable Rules Committee showdown, because its chair was the ultra-segregationist Howard Smith (D-Virginia), John Fitzgerald Kennedy went to Dallas to kick off his reelection campaign, and we all know what happened then. Yes, people my age know where we were when we heard just as all of you who were born AFTER 1960 know where you were on 9/11/2001 when you heard about that too. That's for another diary.
Thus, his vice president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, the former majority leader of the Senate, becams president. In a speech he made to the nation November 27, he promised to carry forward Kennedy’s programs and he perhaps did even more than that. His tenure in the Senate had taught him about coalition building, and his first effort was the Civil Rights Act, which he was determined to get on his desk in time for his 1964 campaign for president to begin. Some historians think Johnson worked harder for the bill than Kennedy would have, and I don't disagree with that assessment.
The Senate dawdled on the bill until the assassination stirred sympathy for for the attainment of the goals Kennedy sought, and many Senators considered passage of the bill the most fitting memorial they could build for him. The House moved quickly at beginning 1964 session, clearing the Rules Committee by persuading Smith not to vote on the rule. It considered the Civil Rights bill for 11 days and passed it overwhelmingly by a vote of 290-130 (it was a sectional vote, as 7 of the 97 representatives from the states of the former Confederacy, all Democrats, voted for it). In the Senate, LBJ, using every trick he had learned as Senate majority leader, forged a coalition of Republicans and Northern/Western Democrats to break an 82 day Southern filibuster. It was finally sent to President on a 73-27 vote. I can't find this vote anywhere, but I do have the roll call on the 71-29 cloture vote on the 82 day filibuster, and this will explain why the Republicans are trying to perpetuate the fiction that they were responsible for the bill. The 71 senators who voted for cloture included 43 Democrats and 29 Republicans. NONE of the 29 Republicans represented any of the states of the former Confederacy. The ones you may have heard of mostly could not win a Republican primary today: George Aiken (VT), Clifford Case (NJ), John Sherman Cooper (KY), Tom Kuchel (CA), Jacob Javits and Kenneth Keating (both NY), Leverett Saltonstall (MA), Margaret Chase Smith (ME). And then there were Ernest Gruening (AK) and Wayne Morse (OR) who would distinguish themselves for being the only two senators to vote against the Gulf of Tonkin resolution two months later; that resolution allowed Johnson to escalate the war in Vietnam exponentially.
Plus, some Republicans voted against cloture too. By party, the cloture vote went as follows: Democrats: 43-23; Republicans, 29-6. The 22 Democrats represented Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, plus one each from West Virginia, Arizona and Nevada. These Democrats included such people as Sam Ervin, J. William Fulbright, George Smathers and Albert Gore, Sr. The Republicans? Barry Goldwater, John Tower (TX), and senators from Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming and North Dakota, the wing of the party that would nominate Goldwater as their presidential candidate in August. Incidentally, Strom Thurmond joined the Republican party in September 1964. Those are your Republicans. This is my first attempt at producing a map online, so be gentle.
Thus, on July 2, 1964, LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act which prohibited discrimination in most places of public accommodation, authorized the government to withhold federal funds from public programs that practiced discrimination, banned discrimination by employers and labor unions, created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, established the Community Relations Service, and provided technical and financial aid to communities in the process of desegregating their schools – but did NOT end racism or discrimination in any of its forms. Still, it was only the second Civil Rights bill to be passed after Reconstruction, and it was the first one with teeth.
And a final note. In an attempt to scuttle the bill, Howard Smith, the ultra segregationist congressman from Virginia and chairman of the House Rules Committee, insisted that the word “sex” be added to the list of groups that the bill would protect against employment discrimination, probably hoping it would prolong debate or even scuttle bill. Unfortunately for him it was enthusiastically supported by the few women in the House, and the addition survived. That's ONE of the factors we'll discuss next week when we take a stab at the liberation movements of the late 1960s.
My lecture notes indicate that I adapted most of this material from David Farber, The Age of Great Dreams: America in the 1960s (1994) and Harvard Sitkoff, The Struggle for Black Equality (1993). They are both excellent surveys, but if you only have time to read one book (well, two books) on this, I'd recommend the first two volumes of Taylor Branch's America in the King Years trilogy: Parting the Waters : America in the King Years 1954-63 (1989) and Pillar of Fire : America in the King Years 1963-65 (1999). Branch is the only writer of history whose style I have ever referred to as incandescent.
Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 7:16 AM PT: What a nice surprise to log on this morning and find this on the Community Spotlight list. Thank you!