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The importance of Lyndon Johnson in bringing about Civil Rights.

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Introduction

´╗┐Lyndon Baines Johnson- how important was he in bringing about civil rights? Rory Sheridan Lyndon Baines Johnson (27th August 1908- 22nd January 1973), was the 36th president of the United States of America. Historians have mixed opinions on Johnson. Although he is generally blamed for getting America into Vietnam, Johnson also passed some landmark legislation- more than any other president in the history of the United States. In order to judge the importance of Johnson in bringing about civil rights, I will compare him to President Kennedy, President Nixon, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, the grassroots movement, and Black Power, and then use my own judgement to make a balanced conclusion about his effectiveness in bringing about civil rights. Many people argue that Lyndon Baines Johnson was very effective in bringing about Civil Rights during his time as president. He passed a huge amount of landmark legislation, most notably the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid, all of which advanced the civil rights of all Americans, not just African-Americans. The 1964 Civil Rights Act was introduced by President Kennedy before his assassination, but was never pushed through Congress until Johnson was sworn in. In his infamous first speech as president, Johnson said, ?no memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honour President Kennedy?s memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long.? This is useful because Johnson used Kennedy?s death to his advantage by describing the passage of the civil rights act as being an honour to his memory. He moved quickly, while the nation was still in shock, to push the bill through Congress, by making Kennedy a martyr for the cause. It also showed that the issue of civil rights was one of the most important issues on his presidential schedule, showing he was devoted to advancing civil rights. ...read more.

Middle

Malcolm X Malcolm X was also a very important figure in the civil rights movement. Unlike King, Malcolm X believed in separatism, that blacks and whites should be kept separate. He frequently made bitter rants about white people, and preached that the only way for black people to get their rights was to take them, saying, ?I am for violence if non-violence means we must continue postponing a solution to the American black man?s problems.? This shows he had no qualms about using violence if he felt he had to; he was completely unlike Martin Luther King in that respect. They both shared the same goals but believed in different ways of attaining them. I do not think Malcolm X was very important in the civil rights movement. Preaching violence was not the way to gain the support of the white population, who were the most important benefactors of the movement. He changed his beliefs after visiting Mecca near the end of his life, but was assassinated before he could do anything worthwhile. Malcolm X mainly just passed his anger on to the next generation of African-Americans, leading to the start of Black Power and the Black Panthers. The achievements of Johnson went far further than Malcolm X?s. Whilst Johnson passed legislation to better the lives of African-Americans, Malcolm X just taught them to hate white people. Black Power Black Power was another important factor in the civil rights movement. I think the movement was partially to blame for the demise of the civil rights movement in the mid-to-late 1960?s, along with the Vietnam War, which pulled people?s attention away from the civil rights movement. Black Power was pioneered by Stokely Carmichael, the leader of the SNCC, introduced Black Nationalism into his beliefs and in 1966, after Malcolm X?s death, he convinced fellow members to expel white members from the group. In 1966 Carmichael and other members of the SNCC broke away to form the Black Panther Party, a party devoted to Black Nationalism. ...read more.

Conclusion

Although many of them made the struggle for civil rights public and brought attention to it, nothing would have happened if Johnson hadn?t signed the legislation. Black people would still be required to take literacy tests before voting and discrimination in housing and schools would still be rife. A number of different sources support my claim that Lyndon Johnson was very important in bringing about civil rights. Congressman Bill Foster describes the passage of the 1964 civil rights act by Lyndon Johnson as ?...one of the greatest steps forward for civil rights in the history of our country.? This was published in the Chicago Tribune newspaper, a republican newspaper, which would normally oppose whatever the Democratic Party did. However, the fact that it supports Johnson in this instance shows the magnitude of what Johnson achieved with the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Normally, a republic newspaper would cater for its republican audience by writing pro-Republican, anti-Democrat articles, and the fact that it has written an article praising Johnson, a Democrat, shows that the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act was a victory for not just the Democrat Party, but for the whole nation. This interpretation is reliable for that very reason- praise from a Republican newspaper would have to be hard-won. In Lisa Jardine?s article for The Independent newspaper, she says about Johnson,? He was eventually responsible for establishing some of the most important cornerstones of liberal American legislation, the most significant of which was ground-breaking anti-poverty and civil rights legislation, whose effects can still be felt in the Unites States today.? This shows that Johnson was very important in bringing about civil rights in America, again. However, this article was written for The Independent newspaper, a left-wing newspaper, that would support liberal reforms such as the civil rights act, making it at risk of being biased and thus unreliable. Despite this, though, the fact that it is written for a newspaper means it cannot be overly biased, so the point still stands- that Johnson was very important in bringing about civil rights in America. ...read more.

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