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Meetings: Tape 85. Americans for Democratic Action, 4 May 1963
Sound recording of a meeting held on May 4, 1963, between President John F. Kennedy and his guests, twenty members of the organization Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) present for a lobbying session. The President takes the opportunity to pitch the successes of his administration’s legislative agenda to this liberal action group that on occasion had been critical of some of the moves of his administration. Earlier that day the New York Times ran an Associated Press photograph by Bill Hudson of a police dog lunging at a civil rights protester in Birmingham, Alabama. The President comments on the shock of the photograph at several points during the meeting and states with frustration, “I mean what law can you pass to do anything about police power in the community of Birmingham? There is nothing we can do… The fact of the matter is that Birmingham is in worse shape than any other city in the United States and it’s been that way for a year and a half… I think it’s terrible the picture in the paper. The fact of the matter that’s just what (Bull) Connor wants. And ah, as I say, Birmingham is the worst city in the south. They have done nothing for the Negroes in that community, so it is an intolerable situation, that there is no argument about.” The President goes on to pointedly comment that in a recent meeting with a newspaperman, the reporter commented, "‘Isn’t it outrageous in Birmingham’ and I said, 'Why are you over there eating at the Metropolitan Club every day? You talk about Birmingham and you’re up there at the Metropolitan Club … they wouldn’t even let Negro ambassadors in.’ So now he (the reporter) said, ‘Well we want to work from the inside,’ and I said, ‘Well your one contribution is that now they won’t let white ambassadors in.’ (laughter) Most of your novelists that you read every day… they’re all over there at the Metropolitan Club… so I think that we have worked hard on civil rights. I think it is a national crisis." This sound recording has been excerpted from Tape 85, which contains additional sound recording(s) preceding and following this one. See Related Records to access Tape 85 in its entirety.