I’m deep into research and Breitbart provides one of the keys/tracks/clues via The Truth about LBJ and MLK–a piece which is tangential to the release of the movie Selma.
The truth is that Lyndon Baines Johnson was a life-long segregationist who resisted numerous attempts to eliminate the poll tax and literacy tests during his twenty-three year career in the House and Senate. He blocked every major and minor piece of meaningful civil rights legislation as the leader of the Southern block in the US Senate, and as its powerful Majority Leader.
It was Lyndon Johnson who neutered the 1957 Civil Rights Act with a poison pill amendment that required violators of the Act be tried before state (all-white), not federal juries. Many contemporary liberals including Joseph Rauh, the president of Americans for Democratic Action, and A. Philip Randolph, a vice president of the AFL-CIO, called the bill worthless, and “worse than no bill at all.”
As Vice President, Lyndon Johnson orchestrated southern congressional opposition to JFK’s civil rights agenda and repeatedly warned JFK to go slow on the civil rights, voting rights, and open housing legislation that Kennedy had promised in his 1960 campaign.
LBJ, it seems, was reserving these initiatives for himself. He repeatedly cautioned President Kennedy to wait “until the time is right.” On Capitol Hill, Johnson simultaneously lobbied his “establishment” friends to stall that same legislation.
Johnson would do an about-face on civil rights immediately upon becoming president, apparently now that the “time was right.” He did so to begin the creation of a grand legacy for himself through the passage of the same legislation that he had previously impeded, and to fend-off a challenge from Robert F. Kennedy at the 1964 Democratic convention.
His maneuvering also gave him currency in the left wing of his party so that he could escalate the Vietnam War unimpeded, having won its support. He had also promised his longtime supporters in the defense contracting business, as well as the Pentagon, that after he was reelected “you’ll get your war.”
What am I researching? I’m trying to find an easy to understand method of how we got to where we are–intellectually speaking–with respect to education and racial enmity. As I’m doing so, an interesting thing is happening: I’m having my assumptions challenged, including the assumption that I know this part of history.
Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel, tentatively titled, Arlen’s Harem, will be done in 2015. Follow her on Twitter.
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