John F. Kennedy: Civil Rights Address

(1963)

U.S. President John F. Kennedy's Civil Rights Address, delivered to the nation by radio and television on June 11, 1963, marked the first time that a president called on Americans to recognize civil rights as a lofty moral cause to which all persons should contribute, so that the nation might fully end discrimination against and provide equal treatment to African Americans. In 1963, the centennial year of President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, to which Kennedy alludes in his speech, the movement led by African Americans and their allies for civil rights reached the center stage of American politics. Although Kennedy had hesitated to seek progress with regard to civil rights during his first two years in the White House because of the strength of southern Democratic opponents in Congress, with his Civil Rights Address he added the moral weight of the presidency to the demand for civil rights and emerged as an ally of the movement. Kennedy explained the...

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John F. Kennedy (Library of Congress)

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