50 years: The origin of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964

President John F. Kennedy gave a civil rights speech June 11, 1963 from the oval office that was broadcasted on radio and television where he ask there be legislation “giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public—hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments”, as well as “greater protection for the right to vote”.   This came after several pleas from Black organization and the Birmingham, Alabama campaign lead by Dr, Martin Luther King.  Dr. King said that Birmingham, Al was a Ku Klux Klan stronghold and the most racist city in America.


The civil rights bill composed by Kennedy included the ban of public discrimination in accommodation and the US Attorney General could join lawsuits against state and governments that operated segregated school systems.  Unfortunately, the bill didn’t include some essentials wanted by Black civil rights leaders.  Like the protection against police brutality, giving the justice department the power to initiate desegregation or job discrimination lawsuits.

memphis 1968

What did this mean to Black folks?  Well, I remember my grandfather being very interested in what Kennedy had to say.  As a Black child growing up in my grandfather’s house, I got a sense of what was important and what wasn’t.   My grandfather watching television was very unusual.  You see the TV was something new in the house and I was allowed to watch as much as I wanted and my favorite cartoons that day was replaced by a white man giving a speech. That man, I learned later, was President John F Kennedy who was assassinated, November 22, 1963.

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