With the release of the Hollywood movie “Selma,” President Lyndon Baines Johnson is back in the news. Although the movie depicts LBJ as initially not supportive of the civil rights movement, in fact he was a major political instrument in promoting and pushing through several pieces of legislation that forever changed America.
POSTER FOR RECENT MOVIE - SELMA - ©PARAMOUNT PICTURES
Lyndon Johnson ascended to the presidency under the worst possible circumstances, following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. But while Kennedy had been well-respected for his stirring oratory and charisma, he had not been able to persuade Congress to enact new civil rights laws. Johnson, however, was an old hand at getting things done in Congress. In addition, President Johnson had the power of the sympathy factor going for him, as a result of the assassination. LBJ immediately put his skills to work to move forward Kennedy’s proposals.
From those efforts, three pieces of landmark legislation emerged, all of which were part of LBJ’s effort to encourage Americans to transform country into “a great society, a place where the meaning of man’s life matches the marvels of man’s labor.” The label Great Society has always been associated with Johnson’s social change policies.
THE RESOLUTE LYNDON B. JOHNSON - 36TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the first significant legislation of its kind since the Reconstruction, designed to outlaw segregation in the workplace, in schools and at “public accommodations.” It prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin and banned the former practice of applying different voter registration requirements to white and black citizens.
In an speech before both houses of Congress on March 15, 1965, Johnson introduced what would become known as the Voting Rights Act of 1965, saying, “At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama.”
A PRISTINE SERVICE PLATE BELONGING TO PRESIDENT JOHNSON – PART OF RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX'S OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE CHINA COLLECTION
President Johnson went on, “There is no cause for pride in what has happened in Selma. There is no cause for self-satisfaction in the long denial of equal rights of millions of Americans. But there is cause for hope and for faith in our democracy in what is happening here tonight. … Our mission is at once the oldest and the most basic of this country: to right wrong, to do justice, to serve man.”
The Voting Rights Act, which was signed into law in August 1965, further outlawed racial discrimination at the polls. This legislation was subsequently amended five times as Congress sought to expand the Act’s protections under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. The US Department of Justice describes the Voting Rights Act as America’s most effective civil rights legislation.
In 1965, Johnson also became the first President to appoint an African American to his cabinet, when he made Thurgood Marshall US Solicitor General. Two years later, LBJ nominated Marshall to become the first African American Justice of the US Supreme Court.
PRESIDENT JOHNSON WITH MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. AS LBJ DISTRIBUTES OFFICIAL BILL-SIGNER PENS FROM HIS SIGNING OF THIS IMPORTANT LEGISLATION
And in 1968, Johnson spearheaded efforts to pass another Civil Rights Act, sometimes known as the Fair Housing Act because it was aimed at ensuring equal housing opportunity regardless of race, creed or national origin. This legislation also made it a federal crime to use force or threat of force to “injure, intimidate or interfere with anyone” because of their race, color, religion or national origin.
While the country faced other significant domestic and international challenges during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, he will always be especially remembered for his commitment to establishing true equality among all United States citizens.
RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX - HISTORIAN AND COLLECTOR
World renowned collector Raleigh DeGeer Amyx has acquired pieces from Lyndon B. Johnson's official White House China Collection. Mr. Amyx’s passion for American historical memorabilia has been his sole focus for more than three decades. Mr. Amyx's collection is the first or second largest privately-owned collection of White House China in the world. If you would like to engage in a discussion with Mr. Amyx about White House China, please contact him through the button below.