Presidential Civil Rights
Sites and documents relating to the role of Presidents in relation to the struggle for black freedom.
Text & audio. Truman was the first president to address the nation's oldest civil rights organisation directly. Delivered in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Truman advocated a federal push for equality that, ultimately, his party and congress balked at. Still, how does Truman frame the fight for equality?
The Truman Library presents this online version of the 1947 report of Harry Truman's President's Committee on Civil Rights. The Committee report observed both the state of current civil rights laws & made wide-ranging recommendations for improvements.
The text of the Executive Order desegregating the armed forces - one of the aspects of To Secure These Rights (1947) that Truman could implement without the need for congressional approval.
This index page from the Eisenhower Library has links to presidential correspondence and documents on the key civil rights issues of Eisenhower's tenure: the Brown ruling, Emmett Till, the Civil Rights Act of 1957 & Little Rock. A great site for case studies of the Federal response to civil rights from a president with ambivalent attitudes to equality.
Film footage of Eisenhower's address to the nation following his decision to send paratroopers to aid nine black schoolchildren in their efforts to attend Little Rock High in Arkansas. Worth watching to understand how Eisenhower justified his actions.
A comprehensive website from the Kennedy Library detailing how the attempt by James Meredith to integrate the University of Mississippi caused riots on campus and tested President Kennedy's strategy of moderation on civil rights to the point of destruction. A great case study of JFK's civil rights policy at mid-term.
Full video and text of Kennedy's landmark address proposing the Civil Rights Bill. Listen out for traces of Kennedy's centrist approach, and the use of the Cold War as justification for the need for action.
This photo shows John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson at the meeting held with civil rights leaders on the day of the March on Washington. Figures include Roy Wilkins, Exec. Secretary of the NAACP (far right), A. Philip Randolph, long time union organiser and founder of the LCCR (standing next to JFK), Whitney Young, head of the National Urban League (far left) Martin Luther King (second left) John Lewis of SNCC (third left) ans possibly Loren Miller, an NAACP lawyer and housing rights activist from Los Angeles (fourth from left).
The transcript of a phone call between Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King only three days after Kennedy's assassination. A great example of how Johnson sought to position himself on Civil Rights and the challenges of passing legislation. If you use the menu at the top, you can go back to the menu and listen to the conversation too.
Text & Video. How did Johnson seek to frame the need for civil rights legislation in the language of freedom?
Text & Video. Delivered to Congress in the aftermath of the violence at Selma. The speech in which Johnson embraced the language of the freedom struggle in calling for voting rights legislation, proclaiming 'We Shall Overcome.'
Text & Video. The speed with which Johnson was able to ram through voting rights legislation remains impressive. Here is his address on signing the act into law.