The Kennedy Myth and Civil Rights


The Kennedy Administration Provided Only Reluctant Support for Civil Rights-- At Least Until 1963


President Kennedy Meets with Leaders of August 1963 March on Washington

However, Kennedy's Desire to Maintain the Image of an Activist President: 1) Gave Legitimacy to Civil Rights Cause, 2) Made Him Responsive to Civil Rights Pressures, and 3) Encouraged Youth Activism on Civil Rights Issues



Federal Marshals escort James Meredith to enroll at the University of Mississippi in 1962


Kennedy's Domestic Policy


The Problem of the One-Party South


Kennedy and Civil Rights Before the Presidency


Kennedy Wins Black Votes in 1960. Why?


Kennedy's Civil Rights Pattern


Kennedy Pattern Ironically Reinforcs Civil Rights Protest Strategy: Seek To Create a National Crisis that will force Federal Government to Act


The Segregationist Response

The Freedom Rides

Classic Example of Kennedy Civil Rights Pattern

1) Freedom Riders Force Confrontation and Crisis At Every Stage


2) Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy Attempts to Convince Southern Officials to Protect Riders' Right to Travel in this Case




Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy 

3) Alabama Governor Refuses to Act and Accuses Riders of Fomenting Violence




Bus Burns After Freedom Riders Attacked in Anniston, AL

4) After Mobs Attack Riders, first in Anniston and then in Montgomery, AL, Kennedys Are Forced to Use Federal Marshals and Troops to Protect Riders


Federal Troops Protect Freedom Riders as They Travel Westward from Montgomery, AL


5) Kennedys Negotiate Mississippi Deal: Governor Guarantees No Mob Attacks, but Arrests Riders for Using Segregated Facilities in Jackson Bus Station.

6) During Summer '61, 300 Riders Sentenced to MS's Parchman Prison

7) Finally, Kennedy's Convince Interstate Commerce Commission to Rule Segregated Facilities (Buses & Stations) Illegal.


The Kennedys' Civil Rights Strategy

The Events of 1963

In June, Kennedy Gives Speech, endorsing civil rights agenda and calling for federal legislation to end segregation in public accommodations and racial discrimination in employment.


Kennedy Gives Nationally-Televised Speech on Civil Rights


The speech comes one month after SCLC Children's Campaign in Birmingham and Gov. George Wallace's "Stand in the Schoolhouse Door" and two months before civil rights groups' March on Washington



The Children's Campaign in Birmingham, May 1963





Dr. King at the March on Washington, August 1963


President & Mrs. Kennedy Arrive in Dallas, Nov.ember 1963