Publication Year

2003

Keywords

Civil Rights, Lyndon Johnson, president, Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act

Disciplines

Political Science | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | United States History

Abstract

The Civil War ended in 1865. The Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution soon followed. These amendments abolished slavery and gave black Americans equal rights, at least on paper. But the black struggle for civil rights continued for another hundred years. This century-long struggle for equality culminated with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Such a large gap between the illusion of equality and actual equality leaves many questions for historical inquiry. The two most obvious are: why was there such a large gap? And, how did black Americans finally attain civil rights in the United States? This paper will focus on the later question. Congress passed these bills during the presidency of Lyndon Baines Johnson, the greatest civil rights president of the twentieth century. His leadership was the crucial difference in the black American quest for civil rights. Lyndon Johnson possessed the necessary combination of political mastery-- specifically in legislative affairs--and genuine moral concerns for minorities that made it possible for him to achieve greatness in the area of civil rights. In short, the legislative breakthroughs of the 1960s regarding civil rights depended on Lyndon Johnson being president at that time.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status

History

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