Johnson Years 1963-69

1964 Civil Rights Act - Why passed?


  • Johnson's background and hard work. He was more experienced than Kennedy and therefore knew how to get the bill passed. 
  • Johnson's vision of a 'Great Society' for the USA with an 'end to poverty and injustice'.
  • As a non-elected President, he felt duty bound to see Kennedy's bill through. 


  • America was greatly saddened by his death and the passing of the act seemed like a fitting tribute to him. 
  • Birmingham 1963 forced Kennedy to create the Civil Rights Bill, the images shown by the media during the protest pressured both Kennedy and Congress inot action. 
  • With Kennedy's assassination Johnson could use the sympathy generated to pass the Act with no opposition. 
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Selma 1965

Why Selma?

It was yet to be established whether the 1964 Civil Rights Act would operate in the South, since the State authorities might refuse to apply the law properly. 57% of the Dallas County population was black yet only 335 out of over 15 000 black people were registered to vote. Selma was also highly racist.

Jim Clarke

Jim Clarke was Sheriff of Dallas County who's policy was to discourage black people from registering. In 1963 he showed 250 black people photos of them registering and threatened to reveal them to their employers if they attempted to vote. He was expected to lose his control in the same way as 'Bull' Connor. 

How had the SCLC learned from the success of Birmingham in 1963?

They learnt that the actions of the Sheriff, if similar to Connor in Birmingham, could play into their hands. They also learned that instigating white violence would attract media attention as would high-attendance marches. 

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Selma 1965

Why was Selma important for the SCLC?

Success in Selma could revitalise the SCLC and it was an ideal opportunity for the SCLC to recover their dynamism and restore confidence. Selma was the most specific thing SCLC had done for a year, a year in which others had failed to assert leadership. 

What happened in the early stages of the Selma campaign?

Shortly after King announced the new campaign 400 black people applied to register to vote. On February 1st King and over 700 others were arrested for taking part in an illegal parade. King was released on the 6th. On March 7th a first attempt at a march to Montgomery goes ahead but police attack on Edmund Pettus Bridge. On the 9th there was a second attempt but King turned it back at the bridge. On the 26th the marchers finally arrived at Montgomery and King made a speech. 

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Selma 1965

Bloody Sunday and it's affects 

During the first attempted march to Montgomery the police attacked the activists on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. State Troopers attacked the marchers with clubs and used tear gas. Bloody Sunday arroused national criticism of Selma's whites. However, it also caused the President to ask King to call off the next march. 

Why did the SNCC feel betrayed by King and the SCLC?

Without informing the SNCC, King got the marchers to approach the state troopers and then retreat. The SNCC felt betrayed and accused him of cowardice. 

How did the campaign play a part in the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act?

The reaction of Jim Clarke, the violence of the police and the violent hostility of many Southern white people to equal rights had an effect similar to Birmigham. President Johnson became determined to act and introduce a Votings Right Bill to Congress. 

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1965 Voting Rights Act

Why 1965?

  • Selma and Bloody Sunday - media showed these images to the nation. ABC interrupted its Sunday movie to broadcast films of the carnage. 
  • Indignation across the Nation - demands for Federal action for voting rights. 
  • There were sit ins by fourteen students at the White House insisting the President sort out Selma and voting rights. 
  • Clergymen converged on Washington to press Congress for voting rights legislation. 

What was in the act?

  • Ensured blacks could vote.
  • Disallowed discrminatory literacy tests.
  • Authorised federal examiners to register qualified voters. 
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1965 Voting Rights Act


  • Dramatic.
  • By 1968 the number of Southern black registered voters had more than trebled from 1 million before the act to 3.1 million after the act had been passed. 
  • In Mississippi in 1964, 6.7% of blacks were registered to vote. By 1968 this had risen to 67.5%. 
  • Similar increases across Southern states. 
  • In 1965 there were under 100 black people elected to the office in the South. By 1970 this had increased to 500. 
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Was Johnson a good President for Civil Rights?


  • Wanted to create a great society.
  • Passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
  • Prepared to lose white votes to pass the act.
  • Introduced the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965.
  • Higher Education Act in 1965.
  • Health Care Reform.
  • Voting Rights Act in 1965.
  • Appointed Thurgood Marshall as Supreme Court judge in 1967.
  • Achieved all despite unhelpful Congress.
  • Decreased black poverty and unemployment. 
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Was Johnson a good President for Civil Rights?


  • Introduced the 1964 act because he was duty bound to do so not because he believed in the significance.
  • The Civil Rights act didn't address Voting Rights. 
  • Relied on local and state authorities to carry out his programmes.
  • 1964-68 riots.
  • Violence required federal troop control.
  • Vietnam War.
  • Trapped in poverty.
  • Federal spending increased.
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