Miller Center

Civil Rights Revolution and Reform: What the White House Tapes Reveal

May 2, 2014
9:10AM - 10:10AM (EDT)

John Kennedy proposed the civil rights bill and Lyndon Johnson ushered the Act through Congress amidst militant civil rights protests and violent white reaction nation-wide, at the height of the Cold War, with a divided and “deadlocked” Congress. What can the Miller Center’s Presidential Recordings Project reveal about presidential leadership in this period of crisis and opportunity? Were cold war pressures – to protect America’s image of free world leadership – in fact as significant as many argue, especially in light of the compelling moral and domestic political pressures leaders faced? Perhaps more importantly, how did each Administration define and try to shape the meaning of civil rights and the relative strength of the bill’s and the Act’s various titles?  How did these Administrations see the relationship between civil rights and the war against what JFK called “social and economic oppression?” What qualities of presidential leadership are evident in the two Administration’s civil rights tapes?

  • Thomas Jackson, University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, author of From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice.
  • Kent Germany, University of South Carolina, author of New Orleans after the Promises: Poverty, Citizenship, and the Search for the Great Society, 2007, and co-editor of Lyndon B. Johnson, the Kennedy Assassination and the Transfer of Power, November 1963 - January 1964, 2005.
  • Moderator: Claudrena Harold, University of Virginia Department of History

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