Civil Rights in an Uncivil Society #29

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Civil Rights in an Uncivil Society #29

The modern civil rights movement emerged during World War II and eventually transformed the nation in the 1950s and 1960s. Much like the earlier civil rights movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the modern movement had different leaders with different visions and methods, from A. Philip Randolph, to Martin Luther King, Jr., to Malcolm X. This lecture explores the messages and actions of these three leaders, the history of the movement as a whole, and some of the most significant civil rights legislation.

Some questions to keep in mind:

  1. Compare and contrast the tactics pursued by Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Marcus Garvey with those of post-WWII civil rights leaders.

  2. Compare the tactics pursued by women's rights leaders in the early twentieth century with the tactics pursued by civil rights leaders in the latter half of the twentieth century.

  3. Did migration to northern cities empower African-Americans politically and economically? Why or why not?

  4. Compare the goals and tactics of the NAACP in the 1930s with those of A. Philip Randolph and his supporters in the 1940s. Which group was more effective in achieving political gains for African-Americans?

Civil Rights from the 1920s to World War II

In the decades after Washington, Du Bois (NAACP) and Garvey (return to Africa campaign), had fought for racial justice, civil rights became a national issue. This new awakening to the problems of race in the United States resulted, in part, because of the continuing migration of African-Americans from the South to the urban North and West. This migration remained relatively steady through the 1920s and throughout the Great Depression. During the 1940s, however, wartime production required more factory workers and the number of migrants exploded. During this decade, in fact, 1 million African-Americans moved from the South to the North. As a result of this migration, a third of all black Americans lived outside the South by 1950.

The rise of black ghettos in northern and western cities may have compounded the problems of segregation and discrimination, but they also allowed for the flowering of African-American cultural movements such as the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s. This literary, artistic, and intellectual movement, centered in New York's Harlem, kindled a new African-American cultural identity by celebrating black traditions and the black voice. Some of the writers associated with the movement were Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and James Weldon Johnson.

**Although not formally connected to the Harlem Renaissance, which was mostly a literary movement, jazz emerged concurrently out of African-Americans' musical traditions.

This internal migration was important not only culturally, but for at least two other reasons:

  1. As more and more African-Americans migrated to northern cities, they became a powerful voting bloc, they captured the attention of white politicians, and they became increasingly assertive politically.

  2. The migration stimulated a national movement for civil rights; many Americans began to realize that segregation and discrimination were no longer uniquely Southern problems.

The 1930s: The NAACP and the Courts

In 1909, a group of Americans committed to greater racial equality founded the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), the oldest civil rights organization in the United States. As the civil rights movement grew from a regional to a national concern in the 1930s and 1940s, the NAACP stood out as the leading representative of blacks in the nation. The organization built its civil rights strategies around two principles:

  1. It had to appeal to the consciences of northern white Americans.

  2. It also had to appeal to the interests of northern white politicians.

A. Philip Randolph and the March on Washington Movement

During the northern black migration, African-American sleeping car porters who worked for railroads were an important link between North and South. Porters traveled the country, had connections in the black communities in the rural South and in northern cities, and facilitated the northern migration. The president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a primarily black union, was A. Philip Randolph (1889-1979). Randolph was a prominent civil rights leader and labor organizer who fought constantly for the rights of African-American workers. In March 1941, Randolph proposed a new civil rights strategy: a massive march on Washington D. C., in which African-Americans and sympathetic whites would converge and demand an end to discrimination against blacks in employment and the armed forces.

Randolph's proposal disturbed President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The President had been trying to drum up American support for a war against Hitler and his brutal treatment of religious and ethnic minorities. Roosevelt feared that a civil rights march of this scale would bring unwanted attention to discrimination against African-Americans in the United States and embarrass the administration. FDR called Randolph to the White House for a meeting, where Randolph made the following three demands:

  1. The immediate end to segregation and discrimination in federal government hiring.

  2. An end to segregation of the armed forces.

  3. Government support for an end to discrimination and segregation in all American employment.

about this image

Billboard promoting legislation for fair employment practices

Roosevelt refused to meet all of Randolph's demands, but the two men did reach a compromise. In June 1941, in exchange for Randolph calling off the march on Washington, Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802, which created the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC). The President's order stated that the federal government would not hire any person based on their race, color, creed, or national origin. The FEPC was supposed to enforce the order to ban discriminatory hiring within the federal government and in corporations that received federal contracts.

As it turned out, the FEPC achieved very little, in part because the committee could not work pro-actively and could only investigate reports of discrimination after it had received a complaint. FDR was unwilling to push the FEPC into vigorous action, since he was more concerned with winning the war and maintaining his coalition with Southern Democrats. Said Roosevelt:

"I don't think, quite frankly, that we can bring about the millennium just yet."

The wartime economy and the huge demand for labor actually did more to help blacks than the FEPC. As the wartime economy went into high gear, however, and more and more African-Americans migrated to northern and western cities in search of work, racial violence also increased. During the summer of 1943, for example, race riots exploded in army training camps, in Detroit, and in Harlem.


In 1942, a group of civil rights advocates founded the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) on the University of Chicago campus. The creation of CORE marked the beginning of a mass movement for civil rights. Although early CORE membership was chiefly northern, and mostly white, the group took an active role in the Montgomery bus boycott, in lunch counter sit-ins, and in the Freedom Rides in Alabama, and eventually became a largely African-American organization.

Civil Rights After World War II

At the conclusion of World War II, there were two reasons for optimism in the civil rights movement:

  1. White alliances. Many white liberals were now committed to civil rights.

  2. Election returns of 1946. Republicans won in many districts that had formerly been staunchly Democratic, proving to Democrats that blacks were a viable political group. By the decades of the 1940s and 1950s, the black vote had established itself as a political constituency comparable to big labor, big business, agriculture, and other special interest groups.

President Truman and Civil Rights

As NAACP-sponsored court cases moved slowly through the legal system, events in popular culture were already breaking down the color bar. In 1947, for example, Jackie Robinson (1919-1972) joined the Brooklyn Dodgers to become the first African-American to play major league baseball. President Truman also supported civil rights in politics and in the workplace. However, Truman's efforts to pass legislation met with mixed results. Truman wanted to make the FEPC permanent. Yet, in June 1946, it "expired" as a wartime agency and Congress refused to renew it. In July of 1948, Truman passed a number of executive orders to attack discrimination and segregation in federal employment. A. Philip Randolph also pushed Truman to end segregation in the armed forces. During World War II, the navy had started to desegregate. The army, however, remained segregated until well into the Korean Conflict. In addition, Truman proposed a bill to make lynching a federal crime. Congress also rejected this proposal. Nonetheless, despite his many defeats, Truman was the first twentieth-century president to support actively civil rights legislation.

Eisenhower and Civil Rights

By the time that Eisenhower entered the White House, the civil rights campaigns were beginning to take on a momentum of their own. Although Eisenhower showed little sympathy toward civil rights legislation, CORE and the NAACP continued to protest discrimination and a series of their cases were already in the legal pipeline when Eisenhower took office. The most significant of these cases was Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. In this case, the parents of Linda Brown, supported by the NAACP, sued the school board of Topeka, Kansas, to get their daughter admitted to the all-white schools that were closer to their home than the black schools. By the time this case reached the Supreme Court in 1954, other cases had joined it, so that the decision would have national repercussions. Conservatives were astonished when, on May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court came to the unanimous decision that

"in the field of public education the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

As an outcome of this decision, the court ordered school boards across the country to desegregate their schools "with all deliberate speed." This wording actually allowed many school districts to drag out the process of desegregation for years, although this was not the court's intent. Eisenhower disagreed with the decision, but knew that he was obligated to enforce what the Supreme Court said was the law of the land. Remarked Eisenhower:

"I don't believe you can change the hearts of men with law."

Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1956

Another event gave the civil rights movement even more momentum: the challenge to segregation in public transportation. In December of 1955, having been convinced to act by local civil rights leaders, Rosa Parks, a black woman, refused to move to the back of a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She was arrested, which prompted fifty black leaders to meet in a Montgomery church to discuss their response. Ultimately, they agreed to boycott the city bus system, an especially effective tactic since blacks made up 60 to 70% of total ridership. Eventually, the bus boycott was successful in desegregating city transportation. At the same time, the conference displayed a new, dynamic style of leadership best embodied by Martin Luther King, Jr. The boycott's organizers selected King, a 27-year-old minister, as their spokesperson. Said King,

"There comes a time when people get tired of being kicked around by the brutal feet of oppression."

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X

The emergence of Martin Luther King, Jr. as a civil rights leader brought a new tactic to the movement: nonviolent resistance. This method of peaceful protest was a combination of the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and Jesus. King described it as "a philosophy deeply embedded in our religious tradition."

Malcolm X (1925-1965) stood in sharp contrast to King and his philosophy of nonviolent resistance and racial integration. X was born Malcolm Little, the son of a Baptist preacher who followed Marcus Garvey. When he was a boy, members of a Klan-like organization murdered his father. He dropped out of school after the eighth grade and moved to Detroit, where he led a life of crime. In prison, he encountered the religious teachings of Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Lost-Found Nation of Islam, an organization known popularly as the Black Muslims. Elijah Muhammad's message ran counter to the philosophy of integration. He argued that white men were devils and that blacks to address their social problems alone. Malcolm Little soon became a loyal follower and took "X" as his last name as a symbol of the identity stolen from the African slaves. Because of a growing rivalry, Muhammad suspended X from the Black Muslims in 1963. A few months later, X made a pilgrimage to Mecca, discovered that Islam and integration were not incompatible, and abandoned the argument that all whites were devils. He soon took the name El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz and returned to America to found the Organization of Afro-American Unity. On February 21, 1965, Shabazz was leading a rally of his organization when he was assassinated by a Black Muslim.

Southern Resistance

In 1956, in reaction to the Brown v. Board of Education decision, over a hundred United States Congressmen from the former Confederate States signed a "Southern Manifesto," pledging to fight the Supreme Court's decision at every turn. In 1957, events in Little Rock, Arkansas, put southern resistance to civil rights to the test. Central High School was supposed to admit nine African-American students in September of that year. (known as the Lil’ Rock 9), Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus placed the Arkansas National Guard around the school in defiance of the desegregation order.

Although President Eisenhower was no great champion of civil rights, he could not tolerate a direct defiance of the Supreme Court, so he sent federal troops to Little Rock and put the Arkansas National Guard under federal control. The black students entered the school, but met such strident protests and threats of violence that school officials removed them. As in other areas in the South, school officials in Little Rock decided to close the school for a time rather than carry out the desegregation order.

The Civil Rights Act of 1957

After the events in Montgomery, Alabama, and Little Rock, Arkansas, some liberal whites in Congress introduced the Civil Rights Act in 1957. They received little help from President Eisenhower, who stated:

"I personally believe if you try to go too far in this delicate field, that involves the emotions of so many millions of Americans, you're making a mistake."

Nevertheless, the act passed, due to the efforts of Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Baines Johnson. The Civil Rights Act accomplished two things:

  1. It created a national civil rights commission.

  2. It empowered the Justice Department to go to court to ensure that blacks could vote.

This was not a huge step, but it was the first piece of federal civil rights legislation since Reconstruction.

JFK and Civil Rights

The momentum for civil rights continued to grow during the Kennedy administration, although this was in spite--not because--of Kennedy. He was more concerned with maintaining the support of Southern Democrats, although three events eventually forced him to send a Civil Rights Bill to Congress:

  • 1960 Sit-ins - In Greensborough, North Carolina, four black college students sat at a segregated lunch counter. Local police officers arrested the students, who were followers of Martin Luther King and practiced nonviolent resistance. This event sparked a series of similar protests at lunch counters across the South.

  • 1961 Freedom Rides - An interracial group of CORE members and college students from the North traveled by bus down South to test the effectiveness of a 1960 Supreme Court decision which prohibited racial segregation in public accommodations, such as rest rooms, waiting rooms, and restaurants, that catered to interstate travelers. Time and again, angry white southerners clashed with these protestors. In Alabama, for example, a mob of angry whites set a bus of protestors on fire and attacked passengers who tried to escape the flames. This event drew national attention, especially from middle-class northerners who were shocked by the brutal violence they saw on television. As a result, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy provided police escorts for the riders, although this did not prevent further violence.

  • 1963 protests in Birmingham, Alabama - Chief of Police Theophilus Eugene "Bull" Connor unleashed fire hoses, Billy clubs, and attack dogs on peaceful protesters.

woolworth\'s lunch counter

Three students endure taunts as they stage a sit-in at a Woolworth's lunch counter in Jackson, MS

Police dogs attack African-Americans

civil rights rally (madison)

Civil rights rally held at the Wisconsin State Capitol, June 1961

All these events pushed JFK to take some action on civil rights, so he introduced the Civil Rights Bill in the summer of 1963.

Civil rights proponents believed that they could rally national support behind their cause by organizing another march on Washington. One of the organizers was A. Philip Randolph, who had planned an earlier march on the nation's capital during World War II, but who had called off the gathering after meeting with President Roosevelt. Through the years following World War II, a March on Washington group had met annually to reiterate African-American demands for economic and social equality. Finally, in 1963, the time seemed right to carry out a March for Jobs and Freedom, designed specifically to advocate passage of a bill that had stalled in Congress. The march took place on August 28, 1963, and attracted over 200,000 black and white Americans. The culmination of the day was the soaring address of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King: "I Have a Dream."

The Civil Rights Bill was still in committee in Congress when Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Kennedy's successor, Lyndon Johnson, who had been instrumental in the passage of the 1957 Civil Rights Act, pressured Congress to enact the new Civil Rights Bill as his major task. It was a formidable goal, but just one small step in Johnson's broad-reaching plan to build a "Great Society" in the United States. Johnson, in fact, is an extraordinarily important part of our story.

The Almost Great Society: The 1960s

Novelist Ralph Ellison, author of Invisible Man, once called Lyndon Baines Johnson "The greatest American president ever for the poor and the Negroes" and this is certainly the way that Johnson wanted to be remembered. This lecture focuses on the two domestic agendas Ellison had in mind: civil rights and the War on Poverty.

Some questions to keep in mind:

  1. Compare and contrast the views of LBJ and Eisenhower toward the role of the President and the relationship between the President and Congress.

  2. What were the primary goals of the civil rights movement in the years leading up to 1965? Did members of the movement meet their goals during Johnson's administration?

  3. How did LBJ's "Great Society" differ from FDR's New Deal? How were they similar?

johnson, lyndon baines

Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908-1973) was President of the United States from 1963 to 1969. In Texas, Johnson was the state director of the National Youth Administration, a New Deal agency. He came to Washington D. C. as a devoted New Deal Democrat in 1937 when he was elected to the House of Representatives. He became a United States Senator in 1949 and the Senate majority leader in 1955. Originally a rival of John F. Kennedy for the Democratic presidential nomination, Johnson ran and then served as Kennedy's vice president.

The death of JFK in November 1963, brought an entirely different man into the White House. No genteel, East-coast patrician, Johnson came from the hill country of Texas and lived up to that image; he was large, boisterous, arrogant, and driven. Johnson was a loyal Democrat who had risen through the party ranks to become a polished professional negotiator.

Observers dubbed his ability to manipulate his colleagues into supporting his legislation the "Johnson Treatment," which meant that he got right in his opponents' faces and used humor, statistics, whatever it took to "hypnotize" them into agreeing with his positions. As President, Johnson followed the legislative process very closely, down to the smallest detail. Due to his legislative skill and experience, Johnson was able to pass many of the bills that had proved unsuccessful for earlier Democrats and turned much of the modern liberal agenda into law.

Civil Rights Legislation Under Johnson

One of the first pieces of legislation that Johnson pushed through Congress was the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It had three main parts:

  1. The law barred discrimination on the basis of race in public accommodations in the United States - This included gas stations, restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, and airline terminals. The law made an exception for accommodations that served less than five people, an exception that came to be called "Mrs. Murphy's Boarding House."

  2. It authorized the Justice Department to bring suit against states that discriminated against women and minorities.

  3. It guaranteed equal opportunities in the work place - It was now unlawful for a firm of more than 25 to discriminate on the basis of "race, national origin, religion, or sex." This last provision became a point of debate in the 1970s as women fought to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. Many opponents of the ERA argued that non-discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sex was already part of the 1964 law, which made a constitutional amendment redundant and unnecessary.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a huge step for the civil rights movement, but champions of racial equality still had work to do. By the middle of the 1960s, in fact, the focus of the struggle began to shift away from integration toward the political empowerment of African-Americans.

Voting Rights Act of 1965

Violence in Selma, Alabama, highlighted the need for urgent action in the area of voting rights. Selma's county had 15,000 eligible black voters, yet only 335 had been able to register. In 1965, nonviolent protesters descended on Selma to march from that city to the state capitol in Montgomery. Governor George Wallace, who, in his 1963 inaugural address, had promised "Segregation forever!" sent in state troopers and violence ensued. One civil rights worker was murdered by an extremist. In response to this violence, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which eliminated various barriers to registration--such as literacy tests--that White southerners had traditionally used to restrict African-American voting. President Johnson, ever the opportunist, publicly advertised the fact that he would sign the bill in the same room where, a century before, President Lincoln had signed a document to free slaves conscripted into the Confederate Army.

A New Direction in the Fight for Civil Rights

After passage of the Civil Rights Bill in 1964 and Voting Rights Bill in 1965, some leaders claimed victory for the civil rights movement. There was almost universal agreement up to that point on the cornerstones of the civil rights movement:

  1. The goal was integration.

  2. The means should be nonviolent.

After 1964, however, many civil rights advocates doubted that they truly had achieved the goal of full civil rights for African-Americans. More and more people began to disagree with integration and nonviolence. Malcolm X, for example, criticized Reverend Martin Luther King's appeals to follow Christian practice and to "turn the other cheek," and stated that Islam had allowed African-Americans "to stand on our own feet and solve our problems ourselves instead of depending on white people to solve them for us." From 1964 to 1968, many black leaders increasingly repudiated integration in favor of black separatism and non-violent resistance in favor of self-defense. As the decade went on, a definite rift began to form in the civil rights movement.

Stokely Carmichael (picture) was one of the leaders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which had begun as a non-violent, integrationist organization, instrumental in the sit-ins and Freedom Rides of the early 1960s. In 1964 and 1965, however, Carmichael and SNCC repudiated integration and passive resistance and called, instead, for the exclusion of whites from African-American civil rights organizations. Said Carmichael:

"I am not going to beg the white man for anything I deserve. I'm going to take it."

"Black Power" gradually became a new focus in the civil rights movement. In short, champions of Black Power asserted:

  1. Blacks should do things for themselves rather than rely on the charity of White politicians.

  2. Blacks should defend themselves and fight back if necessary.

  3. Blacks should develop and emphasize pride in their own culture.

The Black Power movement called for, and helped institute black political parties, black-owned businesses and black cooperatives, and independent schools for blacks.

As Carmichael told increasingly sympathetic members of CORE,

"We don't need white liberals. We have to make integration irrelevant."

This thinking disturbed more conservative members of CORE as well as the NAACP, which had always emphasized the need for white allies in the movement.

The "Long Hot Summers"

By the mid 1960s, racial tensions had gone beyond sit-ins and Freedom Rides. A series of major riots--or rebellions, depending on your point of view--erupted during the latter part of the decade, including:

  • 1964--Riots in Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York City

  • 1965--Riots in the Watts section of Los Angeles. Malcolm X killed in New York.

  • 1967--Several dozen riots, including ones in Newark and Detroit.

  • 1968--Martin Luther King, Jr. killed on April 4 and race riots--which King abhorred--broke out around the country.

In response, President Johnson appointed the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, also known as the Kerner Commission. The Kerner Commission found that the country was divided, along racial and socio-economic lines, into two societies: 40% of non-whites lived below the federal government's poverty line, black men were twice as likely to be unemployed as whites and three times as likely to be in low-skill jobs. The commission viewed this poverty as the cause of crime and civil unrest, concluding :

"chronic poverty is a breeder of chronic chaos."

The President, for the most part, ignored the findings of the commission, although he did push for the Civil Rights Act of 1968, the last significant piece of civil rights legislation of the era. The Civil Rights Act of 1968:

  1. Barred discrimination in the sale or rental of housing (affecting 80% of the nation's total housing units).

  2. Made it a federal crime to cross state lines to incite a riot.

The second point demonstrated an appeal to the emerging white backlash against the violent tactics of some black demonstrators. So, although, the Johnson administration made great progress in the realm of civil rights, it also paid homage to white conservatives by the end of the decade.

The "War on Poverty"

The advancement of civil rights for African-Americans was only one item on Johnson's ambitious domestic agenda. The second item was the "War on Poverty." In 1963, shortly before he was assassinated, President Kennedy had asked his economic advisors to draw up some proposals to address the problem of American poverty. Johnson took up this charge after he succeeded Kennedy as President. In Johnson's first State of the Union address on June 8, 1964, he called for an unconditional war to defeat poverty. He expanded and revised the proposals given to Kennedy and developed the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. The act included a variety of initiatives:

  1. Head Start

  2. Job Corps

  3. Work-Study program for university students

  4. VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) - a domestic version of the Peace Corps

  5. Neighborhood Youth Corps

  6. Basic education and adult job training

  7. CAPS (Community Action Programs) - CAPS turned out to be the most controversial part of the package, as it proposed the "maximum feasible participation" by poor people themselves to determine what would help them the most. CAPS was a radical departure from how government had run most social reform programs in the past.

The Economic Opportunity Act was bold legislation, but it received only about $1 billion to divide among the various programs and remained critically under funded. By 1966, Congress appropriated $4 billion for the programs.

Tax Cuts

In February 1964, LBJ shepherded another Kennedy plan through Congress: a $10 billion tax cut. This policy was largely a success. Over the next several quarters, consumer spending rose $45 billion, the GNP soared, and the federal government actually increased its revenue. As a result, most top policy makers accepted the tenets of Keynesian economics.

The “Great Society”

Following the tradition of using catchphrases to describe major domestic programs started by Franklin D. Roosevelt, President Johnson announced his "Great Society" during the presidential campaign of 1964. He described the Great Society as

"A place where men are more concerned with the quality of their lives than the quantity of their goods."

The Great Society had three central themes:

  • Abundance and liberty for all.

  • An end to poverty.

  • An end to racial injustice.

goldwater, barry

Barry Goldwater

These demands may have seemed radical, but not in comparison to the ideas of Johnson's Republican opponent, Barry Goldwater. Goldwater, the "Arizona Archangel," was an honest man, but his political views were more suited to the late nineteenth century than to the modern world. He called for the abolition of the progressive income tax, an end to public works, and an end to Social Security. Claimed Goldwater:

"Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue...Our Republican cause is to free our people and light the way for liberty throughout the world."

To counteract this claim, Democrats portrayed Johnson as a man of peace and Goldwater as a militaristic kook not above using nuclear arms. Out of Goldwater's slogan, "In Your Heart You Know He's Right," they crafted "In Your Heart You Know He Might."

goldwater bumper sticker

Bumper sticker states: "Goldwater my [picture of an ass]"

When the votes were counted, Johnson crushed Goldwater in the 1964 election. Johnson and his running mate received 61% of the popular vote and won every state except Goldwater's home state of Arizona, and five states in the Deep South. LBJ's overwhelming victory also helped bring many liberal candidates into the eighty-ninth Congress. Historians often refer to this Congress as the "Fabulous Eighty-Ninth" for its great number of legislative successes. The "Fabulous Eighty-Ninth" accomplished the following:

  1. Achieved the goals of the Fair Deal.

  2. Achieved the goals of the New Frontier.

  3. Introduced Medicare programs.

  4. Passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

  5. Legislated a Housing and Urban Development program.

  6. Ratified the highway beautification act, a pet project of Lady Bird Johnson, the First Lady.

  7. Installed clean air and water regulations.

  8. Ended the immigration quota system of the 1920s.

  9. Set forth new city planning programs.

The Fabulous Eighty-Ninth Congress passed so much progressive legislation between 1965 and 1967 that it reminded many Americans of the germinal days of the early New Deal. Said Speaker of the House, John W. McCormack:

"It was a Congress of accomplished hopes, a Congress of realized dreams."

"If only it hadn't been for Vietnam..."

Had the United States not become involved in Vietnam, historians today would likely remember President Johnson for his leadership in passing civil rights legislation and for his declaration of a "War on Poverty." The Vietnam War, however, proved to be Johnson's downfall. The history and domestic impact of this war are fascinating and extraordinarily important.

(Lyndon B. Johnson: persuasive, dynamic, persistent, dutiful, impulsive):


  • Tet offensive

  • Martin Luther King assassination

  • Robert Kennedy assassination

  • Black Power salute at Olympic Games in Mexico (stripped of their metals)

  • Chicago Riots

  • University student protests—more than 100 campuses nationwide

  • Walter Cronkite decides war is unwinnable (news anchorman)

  • LBJ withdraws from a second presidential term (Vietnam)

  • Mai Lai incident

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