Civil Rights In The Middle

It is black history month and the perfect time for a little history lesson on the now famous Civil Rights Act….

There was more going on with this act than we are taught in our primary schools.

On August 7, 1957, Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson voted yea on the first civil rights bill passed by Congress in 82 years. He was joined by 71 of his Senate colleagues, including 43 Republicans and 28 Democrats, 4 of them liberals from the South like Johnson himself. One month later, on September 9, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957 into law.

As majority leader, Johnson arguably did more than anyone else to ensure the passage of a civil rights act in 1957. He cajoled skittish progressives, most of them Northerners, into compromising with the Democratic Party’s powerful Southern voting bloc. Then, over bourbon and cigars, he convinced the Old Guard Democratic Southerners that they ought to give a bit on civil rights while one of their own was in charge, as legislative action on race relations could not be postponed indefinitely.

Limited in its scope and effectiveness, particularly when compared with legislation passed in the 1960s, the 1957 bill walked a treacherous tightrope that “was going to disappoint both the opponents of civil rights and the proponents of civil rights,” says Bruce Schulman, a historian at Boston University. The future president’s efforts were “totally based in the calculation of what was achievable” rather than ideal.

When defending his choice to support the bill on the Senate floor, Johnson admitted that it did “not pretend to solve all the problems of human relations.” Still, he said, “I cannot follow the logic of those who say that because we cannot solve all the problems, we should not try to solve any of them.” Instead, the majority leader stalwartly held the middle, resolute in his conviction that a symbolic victory, however weak, was superior to a total ideological defeat.

This political pragmatism defined Johnson’s lengthy career. As a sectional politician with national ambitions, he was a virtuoso of the art of the possible. Johnson considered the preservation of his political future the best opportunity to help the greatest number of people. By doing only what was feasible and, above all else, looking out for himself, he would make a better future for his “fellow Americans.”

I am not so sure that the middle was the best place to fight for real civil rights.


I believe that it made it too easy to lessen the impact over time….and so it has.

Be Smart!

Learn Stuff!

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”


4 thoughts on “Civil Rights In The Middle

  1. The Civil Acts to which you refer was a ploy — a taste of candy if you prefer — designed to present the appearance of greater freedoms and protections for those freedoms .. but with the ability built into them to allow dissenters to circumvent them …and the dissenters have been finding loopholes every since then and so the supposed beneficiaries of the Civil Rights have their impression of rights but the former oppressors still find ways to rob them of those rights …and are very subtly active in doing so all the time. Take continued voter suppression as a prime example. And as to the “Affirmative Action” law, that was nothing but discrimination in reverse and it is doomed to failure.

    1. Give them time….they are trying exclude any mention of the black contributions in schools….so it may not be too long if they get their way. chuq

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