To me, the President's legislative proposals (on civil rights) are clearly destructive of the American system and the constitutional rights of American citizens. I shall oppose them with every means and resource at my command.
SENATOR RICHARD B. RUSSELL
The racial problem, America's canker, burst under Kennedy.
In 1960 Dr. Martin Luther King had called on his fellow Negroes to vote for the Senator from Massachusetts, and 78% had responded to his appeal. A 1962 pool revealed that the Negroes chose Dr. King as their favorite hero, followed closely by John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Kennedy inspired respect and enthusiasm among many of them. But most saw him, if not as their redeemer, at least as the best card in their very weak hand.
A few days after President Kennedy's inauguration, on February 1, 1961, James Farmer, President of CORE,(1) inaugurated the Freedom Riders' movement. Hundreds of militant integrationists, trained in passive resistance and prepared to confront the brutality of the local police, were sent to test segregation facilities in the South. In the month of May alone, there were 24 marches and demonstrations. Kennedy, who at the time was engrossed in international problems, chose not to attack the Negro problem head on during his first two years in office, but to act through the intermediary of the federal agencies, and in particular through his brother, the Attorney General.
In November, 1961, the Supreme Court ruled against segregation in hotels and restaurants. There was some local resistance, but the real problem lay elsewhere, in the fields of employment, education and housing. In 1961, unemployment was twice as high among Negroes as among whites. It was particularly difficult to enforce equal employment in industry. The problem was far more complex than it appeared. It involved vocational training and re-training, and depended on population migration and the attitude of the trade unions.
The Kennedy Administration stepped up the recruitment of Negro employees by the federal government.(2) Federal agencies such as the Veterans and Housing Administrations were required to show why they employed such a low percentage of Negroes. The Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity was empowered to cancel government contracts where it was established that the contracting firms practiced racial discrimination in their employment. This measure affected 38,000 companies. The Committee's authority extended even to the building firms employed on federally-financed construction projects. It was not long before the federal government was accused of employment discrimination in favor of Negroes. When a federal official hired a white person, he was asked to show why he had not chosen a Negro instead. Federal agencies were required to show why they employed white people in certain positions for which there were qualified Negroes available.
Three Negroes were promoted to supervisory positions at the Dallas Post Office in June, 1963. The first of the Negroes ranked 54th on the official promotion list. The United Federation of Postal Clerks and the National Association of Letter Carriers lodged a formal protest. "Why take the exam at all?" asked Owen Murphy, head of the Letter Carriers' local. "They'll just pass you by. "Post Office officials insisted that the three Negroes were highly qualified, and that it was wrong to assume that the 53 whites ahead of them were any more so. The Assistant Postmaster General, Richard J. Murphy, suggested that their previous low rank might have been the result of racial discrimination.
Critics claimed that there were two categories of typists employed by the Labor Department: white girls, who were required to type at least 40 words a minute, and Negroes, for whom 20 was considered sufficient. Similar discrepancies with regard to professional qualification appeared to exist in the Social Security and the Veterans Administrations.
Nevertheless, officials of the Kennedy Administration denied the existence of a quota for Negro employment. On July 9, 1963, in New York, a member of the Human Rights Commission demanded that sanctions be taken against Anne M. Kelly, a New York City Board of Trade official who had expressed her preference for a white secretary.
This kind of pressure brought results. Although Negroes represented only 10.5% of the population during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1962, they accounted for 17% of the 62,633 civil service jobs during the same period.(3) Between June 1961 and June 1963, the percentage of Negroes employed in the middle grades of the civil service increased by 35.5%, and in the upper grades by 88.2%. Attorney General Robert Kennedy appointed 40 Negro United States attorneys.
Reactions were vehement. Senator John Stennis of Mississippi declared in the Senate, "If federal employees are to be appointed solely because they are members of the Negro race, not only will the civil service laws be violated, but it will discourage and prevent qualified white people from taking the trouble to apply."
Negro publisher S. B. Fuller stated that Negroes should seek positions only as fast as they were qualified to hold them, and Representative Huddleston of Alabama declared, "Favoritism is the rule and complete disregard of the merit system is the attitude now prevailing."
The President of the US Civil Service Commission, John W. Macy, Jr., rejected these attacks, saying: "What we are trying to do is to give all citizens an equal opportunity to compete for federal positions. What we are saying is that the Negro has had a long time to wait, and he is welcome in the federal service if he meets the proper qualifications and standards." And he added, "The Government can't very well sell private employers on the idea of hiring more Negroes if the Government itself doesn't set a good example."
The federal government had no legal authority to oblige employers to hire Negroes. The administration, therefore, attempted to act by other means, for example through the vocational training centers that were partially subsidized by the federal government. The AFL-CIO counted 1.5 million Negroes among its 13.5 million members, but many trade unions refused to admit Negroes, and the union rules constituted a major obstacle to the government's efforts. Many of the unions were concerned about the preferential treatment given to Negroes. They considered that any favors accorded the Negroes could only be to the detriment of the whites.(4)
Simultaneously, Washington intervened directly in the integration of schools and colleges. On the very day of Kennedy's inauguration, January 20, 1961, James Meredith, a Negro, requested admission to the University of Mississippi. In September 1962, Mississippi went to battle behind its Governor, Ross Barnett, against the admission of Meredith. Many people were wounded, and two were killed. An anonymous member of the Harvard Law School faculty declared in the report of the Civil Rights Commission (1962) that in Mississippi, "Citizens of the United States have been shot, set upon by vicious dogs, and otherwise terrorized because they sought to vote . . . Students have been fired upon, ministers have been assaulted . . . children, at the brink of starvation, have been deprived of assistance by the callous and discriminatory acts of Mississippi officials administering Federal funds."
Meredith entered the University of Mississippi under the protection of 16,000 federal troops. The people of the South, but also many other Americans, felt that this was not integration, but the pressure of a minority. In Mississippi and throughout the South as far as the Mexican border, people were suddenly conscious that their way of life was ending. William Faulkner had written, "If I have to choose between the United States government and Mississippi, then I'll choose Mississippi, even if it means going out into the street and shooting Negroes . . ."
With Kennedy's support, the tide of the Negro Revolution swept through Nashville, Raleigh and Greensboro, Cambridge, Albany, Selma . . . Waves of Negroes marched, prayed, staged sit-ins and voting registration drives, knowing that they had the backing of the federal government. During the school year 1962-63, only Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina, of all the southern states, continued to maintain totally segregated schools.(5) Private schools and colleges presented another and altogether different problem.(6)
But the Negro problem had passed beyond the local or regional level. Not only had it become a nationwide concern, but it had shifted geographically. The North, in the broadest sense of the term -- all of the states except the eleven of the South -- now contained the majority of the Negro population,(7) and the Negro migration towards the big cities of the North increased from year to year.(8) In New York City alone, the Negro population (more than a million) was greater than that of the seven largest cities in the South. The city with the highest percentage of Negroes in 1950 had been Jackson, Mississippi. In 1960, it was Washington, DC.(9) In the decade between 1950 and 1960, 1.5 million Negroes migrated to the North. The Negro always dreams of another town than his birthplace. Today, the experts estimate that before the end of this century , with the exception perhaps of New York City, most of the 50 largest cities in the United States will be more than 50% Negro.(10) This is one of the most important racial migrations in the history of mankind, and it is certain that if civil war ever breaks out again in the United States, this time it will be in the North.
As fast as the Negroes moved into the cities, the whites fled to the suburbs. In the South, integration was resisted in nearly every domain: schools, stores, theaters, hotels, restaurants. In the North, Negroes had always, in theory at least, been admitted to these facilities on the same basis as whites, but the important increase in the Negro population created a pressing problem in the schools. Educational facilities in the North were theoretically integrated, but the white children left the schools as fast as the Negro children entered.(11)
Negro leaders demanded that pupils be transported by bus to other neighborhoods to maintain a racial balance in the schools, and the Kennedy administration at first supported their demands. The Negroes wanted proportional representation everywhere. But the bussing of pupils was practical only over short distances, and it drew strong protests from the white suburbs. Civil rights leaders protested that this amounted to de facto segregation.(12)
Deserted by their white inhabitants, certain city neighborhoods became 100% Negro. Negroes who wanted to get away from these ghettos tried to buy homes in white neighborhoods, but often the white owners or real-estate agents refused to sell to them, or they were unable to obtain the necessary mortgage. The restrictive covenants by which the homeowners in one neighborhood pledged not to sell to Negroes were declared illegal in certain states.
The federal government fought discrimination on every front. Its principal weapon was the 70 to 80 billion dollars in federal aid funds. On June 11, 1963, Kennedy addressed the nation on the subject of civil rights. The following week, he sent his civil rights bill to Congress.
This civil rights legislation was not simply, as many foreigners assumed, a new Declaration of Human Rights. To many Americans, it appeared more as a threat to their traditional system of free enterprise and to the balance of society itself. In July 1963, US News and World Report headed one of its articles, "The Civil Rights Plan and Your Business." The southerners were not the only ones to protest.(13) Reactions were swift throughout the country, even in regions where the Negro population was virtually nonexistent. Not only the President, but Governors, Senators, and Representatives became targets for criticism. Several members of Congress were caught in the cross-fire from their white constituents, the various ethnic minorities -- Poles, Italians, Jews -- and the trade unions. America asked itself, "Where is this going to stop?"
Some hoped that the Kennedy Bill would be completely rewritten by Congress, and many felt that civil rights would be for Kennedy in 1964 what his Catholicism had been in 1960. Political analysts calculated that he would automatically lose not only all of the South, but also Illinois, New Jersey, Missouri, and Michigan.(14) It was sometimes felt that "civil rights" constituted an infringement of the rights of white people, particularly of those who, unlike the Kennedys, did not have the money to send their children to private schools,(15) to stay at the Carlyle,(16) to live in a wealthy neighborhood, or to own a second home.(17)
For the average citizen, open housing laws constituted a violation of his personal liberty. He demanded the freedom to choose his own tenants and neighbors. Under the new laws, a federal court could issue an injunction forcing the owner of a hotel or motel to admit Negroes to his establishment, and he was liable to arrest if he refused. The country clubs which made their facilities available to the guests of a neighboring hotel would be obliged to admit all guests, regardless of color. Hotel beauty parlors, swimming pools, dress shops, bars, dentists and doctors no longer had the right to refuse Negro clients. Anyone who felt he was the victim of discrimination in any place whatsoever could henceforth lodge a complaint with the federal courts. If found guilty, the offender would be required to pay court costs, and might even be sent to prison.
The implications of this legislation were many. If a bank refused to grant a mortgage to a Negro who wished to buy a house in a white neighborhood, for example because it feared that the value of the house would drop if the neighborhood became Negro, it could be prosecuted for racial discrimination, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation could withdraw its insurance guarantee. The federal government could cut off all federal aid, for the construction of a state highway, for example, if anyone of the contractors on the project was found guilty of racial discrimination. If, in any firm employing more than 15 persons, an employee complained that he was fired because of his race, the case could be taken up by the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity which, if it found the company guilty, could force it to re-hire the employee. In certain cases, the legislation could even be used to enforce "fair" promotion practices within a company. Federal aid to housing construction carried the same restrictions.(18)
This apparently fair legislation, with the reservation that it hurt the middle and lower-class whites most of all, in fact left the way open for all sort of abuses. Many Americans felt that it went too far -- even Jews, who themselves were often the victims of discrimination in country clubs, hotels and private schools. It called into question the sacrosanct principle of the respect of the individual and free enterprise by the federal government.
Kennedy's choice was clear, although he must have known that legislation alone could not solve the Negro problem. To restore the Negroes' identity, it was necessary to reform the very structures of American society.
Economics was an important part of the problem, but it was not the only part, nor was it the most essential. Those who opposed the Kennedy Bill produced statistics to show that, from the international standpoint, the economic position of the American Negro was actually very satisfactory, and that the Negroes were progressing with a speed unequaled in other parts of the world.(19) There is reason to question whether civil rights did not conceal, or at least delay, the recognition of the real problem, the problem on which the success of such legislation depended.
But the Negro problem is not, primarily, a problem of economics. As long as they remained in the South, the Negroes, penned up though they were, constituted an ethnic family which lived its own life and had its own culture. It was a subordinate society, but it was homogeneous. This Negro society even practiced internal segregation. At Atlanta there was a Negro church where very dark-skinned Negroes were not welcome, and similar forms of discrimination were not uncommon elsewhere.
In the North, there was no large ethnic family -- only a series of Negro ghettos or Negro residential neighborhoods. The Negro in the North in 1963 was far more disheartened than his brother in the South, for, if he was not confronted with legal segregation, he nevertheless encountered discrimination everywhere he turned. Little by little, his soul was destroyed. The American Negro became a psychological cripple. What could civil rights mean to the unemployed misfits wandering aimlessly through the streets of Harlem or Watts, or to the neglected adolescents who had strayed into the world of drugs and prostitution?(20)
Many Negroes sensed that John Kennedy, like his brother Robert, was neither for them nor against them -- that their actions were based solely on a respect for the Constitution and a belief in justice. They were reminded of that phrase of Mark Twain's, "Negroes are not only Negroes, they are also men." What they sought was not simply a recognition of their right to exist. Nor did they want civil rights to appear as a gift. Already, they regretted that the emancipation of the slaves had not come about as a result of their own insurrection. They tried to convince themselves that the first slaves had reached America with the pilgrims on the Mayflower, and that the father of emancipation was not Abraham Lincoln, but Frederick Douglass, a Negro from Maryland. But wherever they turned, they came up against the Wall.
The Wall, for a Negro, is the need to be loved. Negroes want love, particularly from those who scorn them -- and not a condescending love because they are black. But even love is denied them. James Baldwin is right when he says, "Power, that's all the Negro asks today from a white man." Negroes don't want a white Lincoln, but a black Lincoln. Unintentionally, Kennedy reminded them that they are, for the moment, incapable of producing a black Kennedy. Stokely Carmichael was later to say, "I don't trust whites who are interested in Negroes."
Kennedy's legislation was aimed at the whites, but it could not give the Negroes power, nor did it. They would have to win that themselves. That is the way revolutions start.
Was Kennedy right to open the gates of a revolution that could, in the long run, destroy America? Is it possible to maintain a minority in oppression? Could it have been done any differently?
That is not the question. At least, it is not our purpose to answer it. The Kennedys did not invent, or even inflame, the Negro problem. But they were the first to fully recognize it, and to appeal to the wisdom not only of the whites, but also of the Negroes.
During the riots in Detroit, the National Guard had the impression that it was "at war with another country," and Governor Hughes of New Jersey was probably closer to the truth than many suspected when he declared, "These people claim that they hate the whites, but actually, it is America that they hate."
A century of misery, of disappointments, of humiliations, of brutality and hate have turned black America into a foreign body in the flesh of the nation. The Negroes' hate is so strong that they have ceased to hate themselves. Negro girls have learned to wear their hair kinky, and Negroes have taken a new interest in their culture. Even the African dialects are coming back. After dreaming of integration in the great American melting pot and realizing that they are only a gray scum on its surface, locked in its borderless ghettos, the Negroes inevitably chose independence. And when they set out to win it in earnest, even Rap Brown, who summoned them to "Kill!" will have been superseded.
Martin Luther King declared that "Kennedy is doing his best, but the best is not enough." For the majority of Americans, the best was too much.
Kennedy envisaged his civil rights reform as part of a vast moral, social, intellectual and economic transformation of the United States. He knew that "All this will not be finished in the first hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first thousand days, nor in the life of Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet." But he added that that was no reason not to begin. On October 9, 1962, over the Voice of America, Robert Kennedy had proclaimed the belief and the hope that he shared with his brother: "What the world has seen in Mississippi is a democratic nation putting its house in order. It is the proof of our intention to live not under the rule of men, but under the rule of law."
Kennedy's reforms were, and could only be, half-measures. They turned people against him without bringing him support.(21)
The Negro revolution was, and is probably, inevitable. It would have occurred even without civil rights, and without Kennedy. It is written in the statistics of the migration, in the rumbles of other, more distant, revolutions, in the complexes that come from oppression, and especially in the indelible skin color of 20 million Americans. The law cannot turn black into white. The Negroes are still American Negroes, and not Negro Americans.
The civil rights reform was probably no more than a medicine that served to delay the operation, and no one can tell whether surgery will save the patient, whether the "white problem" can be solved. At the time, however, Kennedy's legislation disturbed America and increased her anxieties.
In a statement issued after a conference of eighteen southern Senators on June 12, 1963, Senator Richard B. Russell, key spokesman for the South, declared:
"The President's speech (on June 11th) appealed eloquently to the emotions but completely disregarded reason, human experience and true equality under the Constitution. The fact that every citizen has the same right to own and operate a swimming pool or dining hall constitutes equality. The use of federal power to force the owner of a dining hall or swimming pool to unwillingly accept those of a different race as guests creates a new and special right for Negroes in derogation of the property rights of all of our people to own and control the fruits of their labor and ingenuity.
"The outstanding distinction between a government of free men and a socialistic or communistic state is the fact that free men can own and control property, whereas statism denies property rights. 'From each according to his ability and to each according to his need' may have greater emotional appeal than 'work hard to acquire property and the law will protect you in its enjoyment.' However, Marxism has not worked and can never work because it does not take human nature into account. To rebut the emotional appeal, we have the hard, undeniable fact that in our free-enterprise system we have plenty, whereas the Marxists -- though they have never been able to apply literally their avowed creed -- all suffer from scarcity and privation.
"Our American system has always rejected the idea that one group of citizens may deprive another of legal rights in property by process of agitation, demonstration, intimidation, law defiance and civil disobedience.
"I do not believe that the American people will be easily frightened into discarding our system for adventures into socialism that have been discarded wherever tried.
"The highest office of the land should symbolize respect for law, whether it be legally enacted ordinances of the meanest hamlet in the land or the written word of our national charter -- the Constitution.
"I was, therefore, shocked to hear the President justify, if not encourage, the present wave of mass demonstrations, accompanied by the practices of sitting or lying in public streets and blocking traffic: forming human walls before the doors of legal businesses and assaulting with deadly weapons officers of the law whose only offense was undertaking to maintain order and protect private property.
"The South has its shortcomings as well as other areas. But a calculated campaign waged by the metropolitan press, television and radio has magnified the unfortunate occurrences in the South while crimes of violence in other areas have been minimized. This has generated bitterness and hatred against the white people of the Southern states almost amounting to a national disease. It is also encouraging a condition bordering on anarchy in many communities. These terrible conditions are sure to further deteriorate with increasing disorder unless the President of the United States desists from using threats of mass violence to rush his social-equality legislation through the Congress.
"No American citizen has the right to select the laws he will obey and those he will disobey. The President of the United States has a higher call to leadership than to use threats of mass violence and disregard of reasonable local laws as a means of securing action in the courts and Congress, however desirable he may regard it to be . . .
"I believe in equality before the law for every American. In equal measure, I reject the idea that federal power may be invoked to compel the mingling of the races in social activities to achieve the nebulous aim of social equality. Every Negro citizen possesses every legal right that is possessed by any white citizen, but there is nothing in either the Constitution or Judeo-Christian principles or common sense and reason which would compel one citizen to share his rights with one of another race at the same place and at the same time. Such compulsion would amount to a complete denial of the inalienable rights of the individual to choose or select his associates.
"I hope that the American people will not be swept further down the road to socialism by the present unprecedented wave of propaganda. To me, the President's legislative proposals are clearly destructive of the American system and the constitutional rights of American citizens. I shall oppose them with every means and resource at my command. I do not believe a majority of the Congress will be frightened by thinly veiled threats of violence."
Back to main Farewell America menu
Back to JFK literature menu
Back to JFK menu
1. The Congress of Racial Equality, founded in 1942, has a membership of 80,000. After supporting a policy of non-violence throughout the Fifties, it rallied to the Black Power movement in 1966.
2. The desegregation of federal employment began under Roosevelt. Between 1932 and 1937, he appointed Negroes to his "Black Cabinet," doubled the number of Negroes employed by the federal government, and, on June 25, 1941, outlawed racial discrimination in defense industries, Segregation disappeared from the Army in 1950, during the Korean War. In 1954, the Supreme Court outlawed segregation in the schools, and in 1956 in public transportation facilities. In 1957, the Civil Rights Act, which outlawed voting discrimination, was passed by Congress. But while the problem of segregated transportation was solved, the problem of school segregation remained: there were serious riots in Tusca1oosa in 1956, and in Little Rock in 1957. Trouble broke out in Nashville in 1960 over restaurant desegregation, and Negro voting rights were often obstructed by local authorities.
3. This percentage was as high as 25% in the Veterans Administration, and 20% in the Post Office Department.
4. In 1963, while white unemployment continued to rise (from 5.6% to 5.7%), Negro unemployment dropped from 11% to 10.9%.
5. The percentage of integration in the 8 other southern states was very slight:
North Carolina: 0.27%
6. In 1962-1963, there were 270,000 Negroes among the 4.2 million students in colleges and preparatory schools. Some examples:
Columbia: 20 Negroes out of 700 undergraduates.
Princeton: 15 out of 3,045.
Yale: 75 to 90 out of 8,350.
University of Illinois: 1,200 to 1,500 Negroes out of 23,490.
University of Pennsylvania: 800 to 1,000 out of 10,350.
Michigan State University: 300 to 500 out of 24,000.
Private Preparatory Schools:
Georgetown (Maryland): l out of 276.
Groton (Massachusetts): 3 out of 200.
Lawrenceville (New Jersey): 0 out of 630.
Horace Mann (New York) : 16 out of 600.
7. In 1950, 60% of the Negro population (9,053,000) lived in the eleven states of the South, the remaining 40% (4,989,000) in the North. In 1963, only 10,100,000 Negroes (49%) remained in the South. 51% of the Negro population (10,400,000) lived in the North.
8. This migration was encouraged by the southern segregationists, who financed the departure by bus of tens of thousands of Negroes towards the North. The New Orleans Citizens Council inaugurated these "shipments" on April 21, 1962.
9. For other northern cities, the population figures are as follows:
|994,000 whites left||New York City and||172,000 Negroes entered|
|Mississippi lost||323,000||Negroes||and California gained||354,000|
|Hawaii||52,000||Dist. of Col.||54,000|
11. Englewood, New Jersey, a suburb of New York City, is a typical example. Its schools had always been integrated. But when the Negro population increased to 27% (in a town of 26,000 inhabitants), one elementary school became 98% Negro, another 65% , while the others remained 90% white.
12. In Washington, three-quarters of the public schools are not really integrated: 27 are completely Negro, and 88 others are 90 to 99% Negro. Seventeen are 90 to 99% white, and three are all white.
13. An Atlanta, Georgia newspaper editor had written in 1962: "Now it's relatively fashionable to be for integration!"
14. Nevertheless, the Civil Rights Act was voted in 1964, the Voting Rights Act in 1965, and in 1966 a law was passed making the obstruction of civil rights a federal crime punishable by life imprisonment.
15. Choate, Kennedy's prep school, had one Negro student out of 550 in 1963.
16. A luxurious Manhattan hotel where the Kennedys often stayed.
17. The Kennedys had a winter home at Palm Beach, a segregated winter resort.
18. Of the 5,905 building and construction firms questioned about the repercussions of this legislation, 41.2% declared that they would lose 50 to 75% of their business, 1.3% that their business would increase, 34.9% that it would not bring about any change, and 22.6% that they had no opinion. (Statistics from US News and World Report.)
19. In 1930, 3 out of 4 Negroes were employed on cotton plantations or as unskilled laborers. In 1963, this number had dropped to 1 in 3, and 20% held skilled jobs.
The average income of a white American had increased by 475% since 1940, from $1,112 to $5,287. The Negro average for the same period had risen by 555%, from $460 to $3,015, and the discrepancy between white and Negro incomes was growing smaller every day.
The average per capita income of an America Negro was 40% higher than that of a Soviet citizen, and three times as great as that of the average Japanese.
This average ($1,100 per year) fell halfway between the average per capita income in Australia ($1,200) and West Germany ($1,040), and was equal to the average per capita income in Great Britain.
The per capita average of some of the other dark-skinned peoples of the world was (in comparison with the $1,100 of the American Negro):
20. Three out of 4 needy Americans are Negroes. In 1963, the percentage of the population earning less than $300 a year (considered the threshold of poverty in the US) was 15.9% among whites and 43.1% among Negroes.
21. On June 10, only a day after the President's civil rights address, the Alabama National Guard was called out to halt racial disturbances, and on June 19 in Savannah, 3,000 Negroes rioted against the whites. Panic spread throughout the South at the perspective of a Negro invasion of white schools and white residential districts. In the southern states, hate for President Kennedy was at its apogee.
At the same time, Negro militants and extremist leaders, who had already attacked Robert Kennedy on May 28 for being "too soft," multiplied their threatening declarations. In August, 1963, James Meredith took his final examinations. On August 28 the Civil Rights march took place in the capitol to the strains of "We Shall Overcome." The Washington march marked a change in the strategy of the civil rights leaders. John Lewis, chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, prepared a speech that contained such statements as: "We will not wait for the President, the Justice Department nor the Congress, but we will take matters into our own hands and create a source of power outside of any national structure . . . We will march through the South, through the heart of Dixie, the way Sherman did." (Mr. Lewis deleted these passages after the Catholic Archbishop of Washington objected.)
On November 9, 1963, Richard Nixon declared that President Kennedy's "extravagant campaign promises" were largely responsible for the racial crisis facing the United States.
Back to main Farewell America menu
Back to JFK literature menu
Back to JFK menu