Which President done most for the Civil Rights?

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Truman’s administration published “To Secure These Rights” in 1947 a drive was started in 1948 to end discrimination in federal employment in 1950, the supreme court all but overturned what is referred to as Plessy v Ferguson. These were a series of laws dating from 1896 which effectively approved the “Jim Crow” segregation laws that characterised the South. The laws introduced the “separate but equal” philosophy of the south – but with the backing of the highest legal body in America.


The Civil Rights Act of 1957 was introduced in Eisenhower’s presidency and was the act that kick-started the civil rights legislative programme that was to include the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Eisenhower had not been known for his support of the civil rights movement. Rather than lead the country on the issue, he had to respond to problems such as in Little Rock. He never publicly gave support to the civil rights movement believing that you could not force people to change their beliefs; such changes had to come from the heart of the people involved, not as the result of legislation from Washington.

John F. Kennedy

To advance the cause of civil rights, Kennedy put pressure on federal government organisations to employ more African Americans in America’s equivalent of Britain’s Civil Service. Kennedy did more than any president before him to have more African Americans appointed to federal government posts. In total, he appointed 40 to senior federal positions including five as federal judges. Kennedy only became voluntarily active when James Meredith forced his hand in September 1962 and was further provoked into action by the 1963 Birmingham affair. In many senses Kennedy was damned if he did and damned if he did not. If he helped the African Americans in the South, he lost the support of the powerful Democrats there. If he did nothing he faced world-wide condemnation especially after the scenes vividly seen in Birmingham.

Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon Baines Johnson has

Page 2 Which President done most for the civil rights? Essay

been credited with being one of the most important figures in the civil rights movement. Johnson does have some distracters who believe that he was merely an unprincipled politician who used the civil rights issue when he realised the worth of the “Black Vote”. However Johnson himself claimed to be an idealist who dreamed of making America a “Great Society”. It was Johnson who put the presidential signature to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Many believe that Johnson was able to pass the 1964 and 1965 Acts because of an exceptional set of circumstances. Lyndon Johnson followed Kennedy’s example in using his executive authority to help the African Americans. Johnson was also seen to be pro-African Americans in other ways, by appointing an African American Supreme Court judge, Thurgood Marshall.

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