Books on or by
Lyndon Baines Johnson
The Path to Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson /
Means of Ascent: The Years of Lyndon Johnson
Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson
Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream
Wheeling and Dealing /
LBJ: Architect of American Ambition /
Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President
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To Fulfill These Rights
Commencement Address at Howard University
June 4, 1965
Dr. Nabrit, my
I am delighted at
the chance to speak at this important and this historic
institution. Howard has long been an outstanding center
for the education of Negro Americans. Its students are
of every race and color and they come from many
countries of the world. It is truly a working example of
Our earth is the
home of revolution. In every corner of every continent
men charged with hope contend with ancient ways in the
pursuit of justice. They reach for the newest of weapons
to realize the oldest of dreams, that each may walk in
freedom and pride, stretching his talents, enjoying the
fruits of the earth.
Our enemies may
occasionally seize the day of change, but it is the
banner of our revolution they take. And our own future
is linked to this process of swift and turbulent change
in many lands in the world. But nothing in any country
touches us more profoundly, and nothing is more
freighted with meaning for our own destiny than the
revolution of the Negro American.
In far too many
ways American Negroes have been another nation: deprived
of freedom, crippled by hatred, the doors of opportunity
closed to hope.
In our time change
has come to this Nation, too. The American Negro, acting
with impressive restraint, has peacefully protested and
marched, entered the courtrooms and the seats of
government, demanding a justice that has long been
denied. The voice of the Negro was the call to action.
But it is a tribute to America that, once aroused, the
courts and the Congress, the President and most of the
people, have been the allies of progress.
for Human Rights
Thus we have seen
the high court of the country declare that
discrimination based on race was repugnant to the
Constitution, and therefore void. We have seen in 1957,
and 1960, and again in 1964, the first civil rights
legislation in this Nation in almost an entire century.
As majority leader
of the United States Senate, I helped to guide two of
these bills through the Senate. And, as your President,
I was proud to sign the third. And now very soon we will
have the fourth--a new law guaranteeing every American
the right to vote.
No act of my entire
administration will give me greater satisfaction than
the day when my signature makes this bill, too, the law
of this land.
The voting rights
bill will be the latest, and among the most important,
in a long series of victories. But this victory--as
Winston Churchill said of another triumph for
freedom--"is not the end. It is not even the beginning
of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the
That beginning is
freedom; and the barriers to that freedom are tumbling
down. Freedom is the right to share, share fully and
equally, in American society--to vote, to hold a job, to
enter a public place, to go to school. It is the right
to be treated in every part of our national life as a
person equal in dignity and promise to all others.
Freedom Is Not
But freedom is not
enough. You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by
saying: Now you are free to go where you want, and do as
you desire, and choose the leaders you please.
You do not take a
person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and
liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a
race and then say, "you are free to compete with all the
others," and still justly believe that you have been
Thus it is not
enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our
citizens must have the ability to walk through those
This is the next
and the more profound stage of the battle for civil
rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity. We
seek not just legal equity but human ability, not just
equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact
and equality as a result.
For the task is to
give 20 million Negroes the same chance as every other
American to learn and grow, to work and share in
society, to develop their abilities--physical, mental
and spiritual, and to pursue their individual happiness.
To this end equal
opportunity is essential, but not enough, not enough.
Men and women of all races are born with the same range
of abilities. But ability is not just the product of
birth. Ability is stretched or stunted by the family
that you live with, and the neighborhood you live in--by
the school you go to and the poverty or the richness of
your surroundings. It is the product of a hundred unseen
forces playing upon the little infant, the child, and
finally the man.
class at Howard University is witness to the indomitable
determination of the Negro American to win his way in
The number of
Negroes in schools of higher learning has almost doubled
in 15 years. The number of nonwhite professional workers
has more than doubled in 10 years. The median income of
Negro college women tonight exceeds that of white
college women. And there are also the enormous
accomplishments of distinguished individual
Negroes--many of them graduates of this institution, and
one of them the first lady ambassador in the history of
the United States.
These are proud and
impressive achievements. But they tell only the story of
a growing middle class minority, steadily narrowing the
gap between them and their white counterparts.
A Widening Gulf
But for the great
majority of Negro Americans-the poor, the unemployed,
the uprooted, and the dispossessed--there is a much
grimmer story. They still, as we meet here tonight, are
another nation. Despite the court orders and the laws,
despite the legislative victories and the speeches, for
them the walls are rising and the gulf is widening.
Here are some of
the facts of this American failure.
ago the rate of unemployment for Negroes and whites was
about the same. Tonight the Negro rate is twice as high.
In 1948 the 8
percent unemployment rate for Negro teenage boys was
actually less than that of whites. By last year that
rate had grown to 23 percent, as against 13 percent for
Between 1949 and
1959, the income of Negro men relative to white men
declined in every section of this country. From 1952 to
1963 the median income of Negro families compared to
white actually dropped from 57 percent to 53 percent.
In the years 1955
through 1957, 22 percent of experienced Negro workers
were out of work at some time during the year. In 1961
through 1963 that proportion had soared to 29 percent.
Since 1947 the
number of white families living in poverty has decreased
27 percent while the number of poorer nonwhite families
decreased only 3 percent.
mortality of nonwhites in 1940 was 70 percent greater
than whites. Twenty-two years later it was 90 percent
isolation of Negro from white communities is increasing,
rather than decreasing as Negroes crowd into the central
cities and become a city within a city.
Of course Negro
Americans as well as white Americans have shared in our
rising national abundance. But the harsh fact of the
matter is that in the battle for true equality too
many--far too many--are losing ground every day.
The Causes of
We are not
completely sure why this is. We know the causes are
complex and subtle. But we do know the two broad basic
reasons. And we do know that we have to act.
First, Negroes are
trapped--as many whites are trapped--in inherited,
gateless poverty. They lack training and skills. They
are shut in, in slums, without decent medical care.
Private and public poverty combine to cripple their
We are trying to
attack these evils through our poverty program, through
our education program, through our medical care and our
other health programs, and a dozen more of the Great
Society programs that are aimed at the root causes of
We will increase,
and we will accelerate, and we will broaden this attack
in years to come until this most enduring of foes
finally yields to our unyielding will.
But there is a
second cause--much more difficult to explain, more
deeply grounded, more desperate in its force. It is the
devastating heritage of long years of slavery; and a
century of oppression, hatred, and injustice.
of Negro Poverty
For Negro poverty
is not white poverty. Many of its causes and many of its
cures are the same. But there are differences-deep,
corrosive, obstinate differences--radiating painful
roots into the community, and into the family, and the
nature of the individual.
are not racial differences. They are solely and simply
the consequence of ancient brutality, past injustice,
and present prejudice. They are anguishing to observe.
For the Negro they are a constant reminder of
oppression. For the white they are a constant reminder
of guilt. But they must be faced and they must be dealt
with and they must be overcome, if we are ever to reach
the time when the only difference between Negroes and
whites is the color of their skin.
Nor can we find a
complete answer in the experience of other American
minorities. They made a valiant and a largely successful
effort to emerge from poverty and prejudice.
The Negro, like
these others, will have to rely mostly upon his own
efforts. But he just can not do it alone. For they did
not have the heritage of centuries to overcome, and they
did not have a cultural tradition which had been twisted
and battered by endless years of hatred and
hopelessness, nor were they excluded--these
others--because of race or color--a feeling whose dark
intensity is matched by no other prejudice in our
Nor can these
differences be understood as isolated infirmities. They
are a seamless web. They cause each other. They result
from each other. They reinforce each other.
Much of the Negro
community is buried under a blanket of history and
circumstance. It is not a lasting solution to lift just
one corner of that blanket. We must stand on all sides
and we must raise the entire cover if we are to liberate
our fellow citizens.
The Roots of
One of the
differences is the increased concentration of Negroes in
our cities. More than 73 percent of all Negroes live in
urban areas compared with less than 70 percent of the
whites. Most of these Negroes live in slums. Most of
these Negroes live together--a separated people.
Men are shaped by
their world. When it is a world of decay, ringed by an
invisible wall, when escape is arduous and uncertain,
and the saving pressures of a more hopeful society are
unknown, it can cripple the youth and it can desolate
There is also the
burden that a dark skin can add to the search for a
productive place in our society. Unemployment strikes
most swiftly and broadly at the Negro, and this burden
erodes hope. Blighted hope breeds despair. Despair
brings indifferences to the learning which offers a way
out. And despair, coupled with indifferences, is often
the source of destructive rebellion against the fabric
There is also the
lacerating hurt of early collision with white hatred or
prejudice, distaste or condescension. Other groups have
felt similar intolerance. But success and achievement
could wipe it away. They do not change the color of a
man's skin. I have seen this uncomprehending pain in the
eyes of the little, young Mexican-American
schoolchildren that I taught many years ago. But it can
be overcome. But, for many, the wounds are always open.
important--its influence radiating to every part of
life--is the breakdown of the Negro family structure.
For this, most of all, white America must accept
responsibility. It flows from centuries of oppression
and persecution of the Negro man. It flows from the long
years of degradation and discrimination, which have
attacked his dignity and assaulted his ability to
produce for his family.
This, too, is not
pleasant to look upon. But it must be faced by those
whose serious intent is to improve the life of all
minority--less than half--of all Negro children reach
the age of 18 having lived all their lives with both of
their parents. At this moment, tonight, little less than
two-thirds are at home with both of their parents.
Probably a majority of all Negro children receive
federally-aided public assistance sometime during their
The family is the
cornerstone of our society. More than any other force it
shapes the attitude, the hopes, the ambitions, and the
values of the child. And when the family collapses it is
the children that are usually damaged. When it happens
on a massive scale the community itself is crippled.
So, unless we work
to strengthen the family, to create conditions under
which most parents will stay together--all the rest:
schools, and playgrounds, and public assistance, and
private concern, will never be enough to cut completely
the circle of despair and deprivation.
To Fulfill These
There is no single
easy answer to all of these problems.
Jobs are part of
the answer. They bring the income which permits a man to
provide for his family.
Decent homes in
decent surroundings and a chance to learn--an equal
chance to learn--are part of the answer.
Welfare and social
programs better designed to hold families together are
part of the answer.
Care for the sick
is part of the answer.
heart by all Americans is another big part of the
And to all of these
fronts--and a dozen more--I will dedicate the expanding
efforts of the Johnson administration.
But there are other
answers that are still to be found. Nor do we fully
understand even all of the problems. Therefore, I want
to announce tonight that this fall I intend to call a
White House conference of scholars, and experts, and
outstanding Negro leaders--men of both races--and
officials of Government at every level.
This White House
conference's theme and title will be "To Fulfill These
Its object will be
to help the American Negro fulfill the rights which,
after the long time of injustice, he is finally about to
To move beyond
opportunity to achievement.
To shatter forever
not only the barriers of law and public practice, but
the walls which bound the condition of many by the color
of his skin.
To dissolve, as
best we can, the antique enmities of the heart which
diminish the holder, divide the great democracy, and do
wrong--great wrong--to the children of God.
And I pledge you
tonight that this will be a chief goal of my
administration, and of my program next year, and in the
years to come. And I hope, and I pray, and I believe, it
will be a part of the program of all America.
What Is Justice
For what is
It is to fulfill
the fair expectations of man.
justice is a very special thing. For, from the first,
this has been a land of towering expectations. It was to
be a nation where each man could be ruled by the common
consent of all--enshrined in law, given life by
institutions, guided by men themselves subject to its
rule. And all--all of every station and origin--would be
touched equally in obligation and in liberty.
Beyond the law lay
the land. It was a rich land, glowing with more abundant
promise than man had ever seen. Here, unlike any place
yet known, all were to share the harvest.
And beyond this was
the dignity of man. Each could become whatever his
qualities of mind and spirit would permit--to strive, to
seek, and, if he could, to find his happiness.
This is American
justice. We have pursued it faithfully to the edge of
our imperfections, and we have failed to find it for the
So, it is the
glorious opportunity of this generation to end the one
huge wrong of the American Nation and, in so doing, to
find America for ourselves, with the same immense thrill
of discovery which gripped those who first began to
realize that here, at last, was a home for freedom.
All it will take is
for all of us to understand what this country is and
what this country must become.
promises: "I shall light a candle of understanding in
thine heart, which shall not be put out."
Together, and with
millions more, we can light that candle of understanding
in the heart of all America.
And, once lit, it will never again
* * *
Note: The President spoke at 6:35 p.m. on the Main
Quadrangle in front of the library at Howard University
in Washington, after being awarded an honorary degree of
doctor of laws. His opening words referred to Dr. James
M. Nabrit, It., President of the University. During his
remarks he referred to Mrs. Patricia Harris, U.S.
Ambassador to Luxembourg and former associate professor
of law at Howard University. The Voting Rights
Act of 1965 was approved by the President on August 6,
Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B.
Johnson, 1965. Volume II, entry 301, pp. 635-640.
Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1966.
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The Civil Rights Act of March 1875
Rights Acts and Other Remedies
The Voting Rights Act of
U.S.C. §§ 1973–1973aa-6)
is a landmark piece of national legislation in the United States
that outlawed discriminatory voting practices that had been
responsible for the widespread
African Americans in the U.S. Echoing the language of the
15th Amendment, the Act prohibits states from imposing any
"voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard,
practice, or procedure ... to deny or abridge the right of any
citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or
color." Specifically, Congress intended the Act to outlaw the
practice of requiring otherwise qualified voters to pass
literacy tests in order to register to vote, a principal
means by which Southern states had prevented African-Americans
from exercising the franchise. The Act was signed into law by
Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat, who had earlier signed the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law.
The Act has been
renewed and amended by Congress four times, the most recent
being a 25-year extension signed into law by President
George W. Bush in 2006. . . . During the debate over the
2006 extension, some
Republican members of Congress objected to renewing the
preclearance requirement (the Act's primary enforcement
provision), arguing that it represents an overreach of federal
power and places unwarranted bureaucratic demands on Southern
states that have long since abandoned the discriminatory
practices the Act was meant to eradicate. Conservative
legislators also opposed requiring states with large
Spanish-speaking populations to provide bilingual ballots.
Congress nonetheless voted to extend the Act for twenty-five
years with its original enforcement provisions left intact.—Wikipedia
Civil Rights and Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower
Book Review: JFK Why England Slept
List of federal judges appointed by Dwight D. Eisenhower /
Civil Rights and Presidents: Kennedy and
Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power (
Q&A with Robert Caro
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Capitol Hill in Black and White
By Robert Parker with Richard Rashke
Parker, the son of
a black sharecropper, grew up in East Texas during the
1930s. In the early 1940s, following a brief stint in
the army, he came to Washington, D.C., where he worked
as chauffeur and messenger for Lyndon Johnson and then,
for 13 years, as headwaiter in the Senate dining room.
This account of the behind-the-scenes Washington world
he observed for over 30 years provides fascinating
insights into such topics as the complex personality of
Johnson (who struggled hard for the civil rights
legislation of the late 1950s and early 1960s at the
same time that he often referred to Parker privately as
"boy" or "nigger"), the sexual exploits of Congressmen
(in their secret hideaways deep within the Capitol
building), and the major events of the postwar civil
rights movement. Well- written and absorbing, this is
highly recommended for most libraries.—Scott
Wright, History Dept., Coll. of St. Thomas, St. Paul,
The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power
By Robert Caro
A breathtakingly dramatic story [told] with consummate artistry and ardor . . . It showcases Mr. Caro’s masterly gifts as a writer: his propulsive sense of narrative, his talent for enabling readers to see and feel history in the making and his ability to situate his subjects’ actions within the context of their times . . Johnson emerges as both a larger-than-life, Shakespearean personage –with epic ambition and epic flaws—and a more human-scale puzzle . . . Taken together the installments of Mr. Caro’s monumental life of Johnson so far not only create a minutely detailed picture of an immensely complicated and conflicted individual, but they also form a revealing prism by which to view the better part of a century in American life and politics.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
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Scorched Earth: Legacies of Chemical Warfare in Vietnam
By Fred A. Wilcox and Introduction by Noam Chomsky
Scorched Earth is the first book to chronicle the effects of chemical warfare on the Vietnamese people and their environment, where, even today, more than 3 million people—including 500,000 children—are sick and dying from birth defects, cancer, and other illnesses that can be directly traced to Agent Orange/dioxin exposure. Weaving first-person accounts with original research, Vietnam War scholar Fred A. Wilcox examines long-term consequences for future generations, laying bare the ongoing monumental tragedy in Vietnam, and calls for the United States government to finally admit its role in chemical warfare in Vietnam. Wilcox also warns readers that unless we stop poisoning our air, food, and water supplies, the cancer epidemic in the United States and other countries will only worsen, and he urgently demands the chemical manufacturers of Agent Orange to compensate the victims of their greed and to stop using the Earth’s rivers, lakes, and oceans as toxic waste dumps. Noam Chomsky & Fred Wilcox Book-TV
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Master of the Senate: The
Years of Lyndon Johnson
By Robert A. Caro
Master of the Senate examines in
meticulous detail Lyndon Johnson's career in
that body, from his arrival in 1950 (after
12 years in the House of Representatives)
until his election as JFK's vice president
in 1960. This, the third in a projected
four-volume series, studies not only the
pragmatic, ruthless, ambitious Johnson, who
wielded influence with both consummate skill
and "raw, elemental brutality," but also the
Senate itself, which Caro describes
(pre-1957) as a "cruel joke" and an
"impregnable stronghold" against social
change. The milestone of Johnson's Senate
years was the
1957 Civil Rights Act, whose passage he
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The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
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Ancient African Nations
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Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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posted 31 August 2008