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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Black History Amnesia: The Unknown History of Civil Rights

Black History Amnesia

Wynton Hall: The Unknown History of Civil Rights
2/4/2008

Black History Month is about informing citizens of the hurdles and heroes of America’s climb toward civil rights and equality. How interesting, then, that so many race-related political myths continue to be perpetuated by Democrats who know better.

Consider the recent fracas over Senator Hillary Clinton’s contention that President Lyndon Johnson was the driving force behind the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As any fair examination of history reveals, a large share of the legislative credit for the bill’s passage must go to that other senator from Illinois—Republican Minority Leader Everett Dirksen.

Just look at the historical record. As Lyndon Johnson told Hubert Humphrey: "Now you know that bill can't pass unless you get Ev[erett] Dirksen.”

Indeed, LBJ biographer Robert Caro notes that prior to 1957, Johnson “had never supported civil rights legislation—any civil rights legislation,” including anti-lynching legislation. His private behavior toward blacks was appalling. Robert Parker, LBJ’s longtime black employee and limousine chauffeur, claims that Johsnon blasted him daily with a blizzard of bigoted slurs. And even as LBJ was being praised by liberals for his appointment of Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court, behind closed doors LBJ’s cynical brand of “identity politics” became clear. As presidential historian Robert Dallek recounts, LBJ explained his decision to a staff member by saying, “"Son, when I appoint a nig—r to the court, I want everyone to know he's a nig—r."


NY Times, "On the way with LBJ," http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CEED6163EF932A15754C0A967958260


Sen. Dirksen's cloture vote speech: http://wicker.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/resources/pdf/DirksenCivilRights.pdf

Roy Wilken's 6/12/64 Letter to Sen. Dirksen (R-IL): http://www.congresslink.org/civil/cr19.gif

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