Let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Nelson Mandela lived — a man who took history in his hands, and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.
LBJ with “Godfather of Black Politics,” Louis E. Martin
Louis Emanuel Martin was a close advisor to three Presidents; John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Jimmy Carter. As a trusted White House counsel, his impact on African American issues and voters earned him the nickname “the Godfather of Black Politics.”
While working with JFK on the 1960 run for President, Martin persuaded Kennedy to call Coretta Scott King after her husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested. That phone call is largely seen as the tipping point in winning over the African American vote for JFK in the Presidential election.
During LBJ’s time in office, Martin’s influence was prominent in marquis policies such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and in the nomination of Thurgood Marshall as a Supreme Court Justice. At the time of this photo, Martin was also the deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), a position he had held since 1961 under JFK.
Jimmy Carter called Martin to the White House again in 1978 to serve as a special assistant to the President.
Photo from the LBJ Library: President Lyndon B. Johnson with White House advisor Louis E. Martin at the Reception for Democratic National Committee Delegates. In the Red Room of the White House. 4/20/66.
The Passing of Rosa Parks
On October 30, 2005 President George W. Bush issued a Proclamation regarding the passing of civil rights leader Rosa Parks.
— A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America
As a mark of respect for the memory of Rosa Parks, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, that on the day of her interment, the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset on such day. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand five, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirtieth.
GEORGE W. BUSH
Photo:President George W. Bush and Laura Bush present the Executive Branch Wreath during a wreath-laying ceremony in honor of Rosa Parks, in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Sunday Oct. 30, 2005.
-from the George W. Bush Library
Telegram from Parents of the Little Rock Nine to President Eisenhower
On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education that segregated schools are “inherently unequal.” In September 1957, as a result of that ruling, nine African-American students enrolled at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. The ensuing struggle between segregationists and integrationists, the State of Arkansas and the federal government, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, has become known in modern American history as the “Little Rock Crisis.”
When Governor Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to surround Central High School to keep the nine students from entering the school, President Eisenhower ordered the 101st Airborne Division into Little Rock to insure the safety of the “Little Rock Nine” and that the rulings of the Supreme Court were upheld.
The telegram here was sent to President Eisenhower by the parents of the nine students.
-Explore more documents from the Little Rock School Integration Crisis from the Eisenhower Library
Immediately following the attacks, the White House was overwhelmed with mail, telegrams and donations to 16th Street Church.
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and JFK
President Kennedy is out on a political limb. He’s committed his administration to a major new civil rights bill, which he outlines in a nationally-televised address on June 11, 1963. The following week, he submits it to Congress. But its passage is very much in doubt and he needs all the support he can get. Now he’s learned that civil rights and labor organizations are planning a big demonstration in the capital this summer which they are calling “The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” Kennedy is afraid that it will hurt rather than help his chances of getting the bill through Congress.
On June 22, the same day he’s scheduled to leave on an important European trip, the President has a pre-arranged meeting with civil rights leaders. A. Philip Randolph, the respected black labor leader is there. He’s the driving force behind the proposed March. Martin Luther King Jr. is also present and has joined Randolph in supporting the demonstration. The president tells the group he doesn’t want “a big show in the capital” that could jeopardize passage of the bill. Read More
Photo: Children near the Washington Monument at the Civil Rights March on Washington. 8/28/63. http://research.archives.gov/description/541995
March on Washington Program with map. Among others, the Big Six will speak: A. Philip Randolph, John Lewis, James Farmer, Whitney Young Jr., Roy Wilkins, and Martin Luther King Jr., all leaders of separate civil rights organizations. http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/MISCACC-2003-036
The Voting Rights Act
On this day, August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.
Recently, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that impacts the Voting Rights Act of 1965. For historical perspective, the LBJ Library has collected related photographs, videos, and a telephone conversation here.
Photo: LBJ delivering remarks at the signing ceremony for the Voting Rights Act. Behind him is a statue of Abraham Lincoln. 8/6/65.
-from the LBJ Library
“…it is essential that there be maintained in the armed services of the United States the highest standards of democracy, with equality of treatment and opportunity for all those who serve in our country’s defense..”
Executive Order 9981, July 26, 1948, in which President Harry S. Truman bans the segregation of the Armed Forces
As one of several actions taken to meet the recommendations of the President’s Commission on Civil Rights, President Harry S. Truman issued an executive order on July 26, 1948, abolishing segregation in the armed forces and ordering full integration of all the services. Executive Order 9981 stated that “there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed forces without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.” The order also established an advisory committee to examine the rules, practices, and procedures of the armed services and recommend ways to make desegregation a reality. There was considerable resistance to the executive order from the military, but by the end of the Korean conflict, almost all the military was integrated.
via Our Documents
Desegregation of the Armed Forces
Sixty-five years ago today, President Harry S. Truman issued his Executive Order that desegregated the armed forces and called for equality of treatment and opportunity for all.
Twenty years after the issuance of the Order, in 1968, President Lyndon Johnson sent this note to former President Truman, honoring that anniversary and Truman’s historic action.
-from the Truman Library
The Americans with Disabilities Act - Today in History
On July 26, 1990, President George Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). President Bush had made the bill a key element of his domestic agenda that year. The ADA proved to be one of the most far-reaching civil rights bills in the nation’s history, affecting more than 40 million citizens.
During its development, the ADA was a popular idea, but there were great challenges in turning it into workable legislation. Although the ADA was equally embraced by Republicans and Democrats alike, bipartisan support did not ensure easy passage of a complicated bill capable of touching tens of millions of lives.
As these documents demonstrate it took leaders and politicians willing and able to “reach across the aisle” to find workable solutions; though as the documents also show, political strategists were well aware of the electoral costs of failure. Read More