“Minorities’ Protests in the 1960s, the 20th Century’s Most Tumultuous Decade.”

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“Franklin and Betty J. Parker Dialogue, Monday, June 15, 2015, Uplands Village, Pleasant Hill, TN. bfparker@frontiernet.net

Betty: Our topic is “Minorities’ Protests in the 1960s, the 20th Century’s Most Tumultuous Decade.”

Frank: It is based on the book The Liberal Hour: [subtitle] Washington and the Politics of Change in the 1960s. Its authors are two Colby College, Maine, professors: political scientist G. Calvin Mackenzie and historian Robert Weisbrot (NY: Penguin, 2008). We also used other sources.

Betty: Frank, when and why did the 1960s become important?

Frank: The 1960s became important when African American1 protests began to explode on Feb. 1, 1960. Four black college students sat at a Greensboro, N.C., segregated F.W. Woolworth lunch counter. They were refused service. They remained seated until they were removed.

Betty: Sit-ins spread like wildfire to hundreds of segregated southern eating places. Months later, most dropped their segregation policy. Sit-ins inspired wade-ins at segregated swimming pools, pray-ins at white-only churches, play-ins at white parks.

Frank: Freedom Riders on buses followed. The first, May 1961, from Washington, DC, to New Orleans, broke rules at separate drinking fountains, rest rooms, and other facilities. White racists fiercely attacked these Freedom Riders with beatings, bus burnings, and killings.

Betty: Black protests inspired other protesters who were later joined and backed by anti-Vietnam War peacenik flower children. The 1960s, the protest decade, became the 20th century’s most tumultuous, life-changing decade.

Frank: A near-revolution was brewing. Protesters’ actions said to Americans, in effect: your denial of our rights, your segregation of minorities, your killing wars abroad, your neglect of the poor have kept us from the American dream.

Betty: They also said, in effect: we will protest peacefully until you pass laws to legalize our civil rights, end America’s unjust wars abroad, create a just society.

Frank: We were struck in researching the 1960s by the serious intent of these young people’s grass-roots protests. They risked jail, injury, death to protest for long denied civil rights.   And, less consciously, they sought, deep down, we think, a more perfect union in a more peaceful world.

Betty: That insight led us to spend a year studying the best writings we could find about the 1960s. We asked: what did minority protesters so desperately seek? What did they achieve? How do their goals affect us now, and for the future?

Frank: Were the 1960s protests a turning point in U.S. history? Was it one of those ongoing crisis-driven turning points which earlier changed our country, a turning point which recurs during troubled times to correct national ills?

Betty: Young people’s attitudes and values changed in the 1960s. They had a different world view. Many in the 1960s sympathized with the protesters, hoped they would succeed. Yet today, sadly, 50 years later, prejudice exists, racial incidents occur, questionable wars remain.


Frank: 1960s black protesters expected and endured racist attacks, water hoses, club-wielding police, and police attack dogs.

Betty: Media coverage of 1960s bloody clashes heightened public concern, led President John F. Kennedy (1917-63) to ask aides to draft and send to Congress in March 1963 a strong, fool-proof, civil rights bill.

Frank: Southern diehards had rigged Congressional rules to give Southern committee chairpersons power to amend or to kill bills they opposed.

Betty: Black protesters battled for just such a strong federal civil rights act. Wiser citizens favored it. But Southern segregationists and many others wanted it killed. The Civil Rights bill seemed doomed.

Frank: Pres. Kennedy’s assassination, Nov. 22, 1963, changed everything. Building on national grief, successor Pres. Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908-73), told Congress and the nation: our monument to Pres. Kennedy must be to pass his civil rights bill. It is the right thing to do. It will put the US on the right side of history.

Betty: Pres. Johnson’s unmatched legislative skills, his cultivated friendships, enabled him to strengthen Pres. Kennedy’s civil rights bill and push it through despite the longest Congressional filibuster in U.S. history against it.

Frank: Pres. Johnson cajoled enough Republican votes for its passage. He signed it into law July 2, 1964. It was and is the most comprehensive Civil Rights Act in U.S. history.

Betty: Getting that act passed, plus his later liberal legislation for Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, Model Cities, and other acts we later list, would have placed Pres. Johnson in the Valhalla of great U.S. Presidents, but for his tragic escalation of the Vietnam War.

Frank: Yet, Pres. Johnson’s Great Society legislation in his 5 presidential years, 1963-68, has greatly benefitted millions of Americans.

Betty: Frank, why have we not lived up to hard won civil rights freedoms?

Frank: No easy answers to that question. We went along with old prejudices against non-whites and incoming poorer foreigners, let most of them be kept down, live in ghettos, be underpaid, impoverished.

Betty: We allowed blacks to be unjustly arrested, tried, jailed, and disproportionately given the death penalty.

Frank: We allowed monied, politically connected slumlords and others to benefit from racism.

Betty: Question, Frank: Will racially mixed marriages change the USA’s racial picture?

Frank: Fifteen percent of marriages now (2015) are of mixed races, 4 out of 10 families have a mixed race member,2 and a census estimate is that by 2043, 28 year from now, non-whites will outnumber whites.

Betty: Latino farm workers, led by Cesar E. Chavez (1927-93), inspired by black protesters, demanded in California and elsewhere, fairer wages and human rights.

Frank: Native Americans, ethnics, women, other disenfranchised minorities followed.

Betty: Betty Friedan’s (1921-2006) 1961 book, Feminine Mystique, spurred women’s demand for both motherhood and a career, for full access to higher education, and for equal opportunities for equal pay.


Frank: Rachel Carson’s (1907-64) 1962 book, Silent Spring, stirred fears of the threat of DDT pesticides. Environmentalists demanded clean water and air, damaged by our industrial waste, mainly for corporate profit.

Betty: Ralph Nader’s (1934-) 1965 book, Unsafe at Any Speed, demanded safer cars, better marked highways, and by extension, truth in advertising, honest labeling on consumer goods.

Frank: Gay rights protesters came out of the closet, June 28, 1969, when gay patrons of New York’s Greenwich Village Stonewall Inn bar fought off a police raid.

Betty: 1960s public opinion and protesters urged government to aid the elderly, the poor, the sick, the handicapped Americans.

Frank: An increasing concern was and is the widening income gap between the tiny percentage of rich getting richer at the expense of the have–less majority and the increasing number of bottom poor.

Betty: Protesters asked: what happened to the American dream that anyone can rise by hard work and fair play?

Frank: Protesters’ answer: to make majority life better, give minorities their civil rights, remove tax breaks for the rich, uplift the needy.

Betty: Cold War US-USSR tensions we number below, added to the 1960s chaos and increased military spending.

Frank: 1-May 1, 1960, a U.S. spy plane was shot down in the USSR; captured pilot Gary Powers confessed to spying.

Betty: 2-USSR’s Sputnik (Oct. 4, 1957) spurred the space race and the belief that to rule space is to rule the world. Pres. Kennedy promised May 25, 1961, to land Americans on the moonl   They did land on the moon on July 20, 1969.

Frank: 3-In 1961, the Russians built the Berlin Wall to stop East Germans fleeing communism to the free West.

Betty: 4-Oct. 1962: Finding Russian missile launching sites in Cuba, 90 miles from Florida, led to a US blockade and near-atomic annihilation.

Frank:   5-Americans were shocked at the long, un-winnable Vietnam War, its atrocities, its return of dead U.S. soldiers in body-bags, seen daily on TV.

Betty: Vietnam war’s purpose was to stop Communist North Vietnam from communizing South Vietnam. Many believed in the domino theory: that if a country goes communist, its neighbors will follow.

Frank: Anti-Vietnam War draftees who burned their draft cards and defected to Canada were cheered by rebellious young “peacenik” hippies.

Betty: Their drug use, rock music, freedom songs, and free love were all forms of protests. Protesters liked being rebels, Don Quixotes, tilting against American hypocrisy.

Frank: Protesting students occupied university buildings demanding self-rule, more relevant courses. They held a large summer 1964 love session in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury section. They held a massive August 1969, Woodstock, NY, love-in, dance in, song-fest.

Betty: Why? To protest the status quo, to end hypocrisy, to correct national mistakes, to improve many lives.

Frank: 1960s USA also blazed with anti-black beatings, jailing, house bombings and burnings, killing riots, murders, and assassinations of Pres. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Pres. Kennedy’s younger brother Robert F. Kennedy.

Betty: Frank, list the big earlier changes that made the 1960s protests inevitable?

Frank: First, a possible model was Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1930’s Depression-era activist government. His make-work for pay agencies: WPA, PWA, CCC, etc., were a 1930s movement to uplift the one-third jobless, ill housed, ill-clothed, ill-fed Americans.

Betty: 2-WWII’s mammoth industrial drive and military sacrifices to stop the Hitler-Japanese axis created full employment, led to national affluence, made the U.S. leader of the free world.

Frank: 3-1944 GI Bill education and housing aid lifted some 7 million veterans and their families into middle class affluence with homes, cars, consumer goods, TVs.

Betty: 4-Affluent Americans moved from conservative rural areas and from boss-controlled cities into more moderate suburbs.

Frank: 5-Between 1920-1960 (40 years) 4.5 million Blacks moved from the South to the North and West. Black votes became important. Race problems became a national concern that led to the 1960’s black protests.

Betty: 6: Post-WW II baby boomers grew up, 70 million by 1960, nearly half the U.S. population. They were better educated, favored minority rights, uplifting the poor, creating a truly just society.

Frank: 7-TV and other media brought into living rooms police clubbing, biting police dogs, water pressure hoses that swept protesters off their feet, Ku Klux Klan-type murders of black and white activists, police brutality; recall Ohio National Guards who killed five protesters at Kent State University.

Betty: 8-The 1955 Montgomery, AL, black bus boycott, a surprise success, greatly inspired 1960’s protesters.

Frank: Worth mention is Martin Luther King’s (1929-68) emergence as moral leader of Black protesters during the Montgomery bus boycott.

Betty: Black seamstress Rosa Parks (1913-2005) was arrested Dec. 1, 1955, for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated Montgomery, AL, bus.

Frank: At her court arraignment on Dec. 5, 1955, local NAACP leaders, knowing that 6 of every 10 bus riders were black, held a one-day black bus boycott.

Betty : Volunteer drivers, black and white, took all blacks to work without incident. Stunned bus officials felt the heavy financial loss.

Frank: Fearing harsh police reaction might bring injury, jail, loss of jobs, black leaders decided to hold a Tuesday night, Dec. 6, 1955, “What to do next” meeting.

Betty: Outside the overcrowded Montgomery church, loudspeakers broadcast to an overflow crowd of many thousands.

Frank: Their speaker was Montgomery’s new, likeable, 26-year old, well-schooled, non-aligned, remarkably talented preacher, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Betty: King was influenced by Mohandas K. Gandhi’s non-violent protests which had won India’s freedom from Britain. King, with little time to prepare, said (here condensed):

Frank: We are here as American citizens seeking fairness on Montgomery buses where seating is a problem of long standing.

Betty:  General murmurs of assent.

Frank: Last Thursday, one of our finest citizens was taken from a bus, arrested, and jailed because she refused to give up her seat to a white person.

Betty: Scattered “Yeses, “Amen’s,” and “That’s So.”

Frank: If it had to happen, I am glad it happened to Mrs. Parks, whose integrity no one can doubt, or the height of her character, or the depth of her Christian commitment.

Betty: Strong choruses of “That’s right,” “That’s right.”

Frank: And just because she refused to get up, she was arrested.

Betty: Angry stirring from the crowd.

Frank: There comes a time when people get tired of being trampled by the iron feet of oppression.

Betty: Many “Yes,” “Yes,” “Yeses.” Rising cheers and applause.

Frank: There comes a time when people get tired of being thrown across the abyss of humiliation to experience the bleakness of nagging despair.

Betty: Stomping feet. The wooden floor shook, echoing in the rafters.

Frank: There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight and left standing in the chill of November.

Betty: He had touched a nerve. The crowd drowned him out.

Frank: We are not here advocating violence. We have overcome that.

Betty: “Repeat that! Repeat that!” A voice shouted.

Frank: I want it known in Montgomery and throughout this nation that we are Christian people. Our only weapon is the weapon of peaceful protest.

Betty: Long shouts of approval.

Frank: We couldn’t do this behind the iron curtain in a communist nation. But the great glory of American democracy is the right to protest.

Betty: Loud shouts. Hands clapping. Pride in a speaker whose rhetoric rolled so easily. Separating his peaceful black protest from brutal Ku Klux Klan and white citizens’ councils’ beatings and killings, King said:

Frank: There will be no crosses burned, no white persons pulled out of their homes and murdered. We are going to work peacefully to achieve justice. We are not wrong in what we are doing.

Betty: Shouts, yells, cheering.

Frank: If we are wrong, the United State Supreme Court is wrong.

Betty: King rocked. His audience rocked with him.

Frank: If we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong.

Betty: The crowd exploded.   Church rafters shook.

Frank:   If we are wrong, justice is a lie.

Betty: Roars, applause, rapture mixed with pride in themselves and in their speaker.

Frank: We are determined here in Montgomery to protest until justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Betty: Pandemonium as listeners recognized the words of the Prophet Amos. King concluded amid cheers, applause, cries of “Oh, Yes! Oh, Yes! Oh, Yes!”

Frank: King stepped from the pulpit, embraced and lauded. He would be arrested, jailed, his house bombed, his life threatened.

Betty: He would give other, greater speeches; would be shot dead April 4, 1968, age 39, in Memphis.

Frank: But his oratory that night, Dec. 6, 1955, made him, at age 26, a national figure, a prophet of his time.

Betty: Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other black leaders, before the Montgomery bus boycott, learned peaceful protest techniques at Tennessee adult educator Myles Horton’s (1905-90) interracial Highlander Adult Education Center, then located in Monteagle, Grundy County, Tennessee.

Frank: Rosa Parks later said that attending Horton’s Highlander enabled her to stand fast in Montgomery, AL.

Betty: Tennessee-born Myles Horton, as a young Sunday School teacher, asked Crossville, TN’s Congregational minister Abram Nightingale: How can I start an interracial adult school to help poor people solve their problems?

Frank: Rev. Nightingale advised Myles Horton to study social welfare at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

Betty: From New York, Horton then went to Chicago’s Jane Addams Hull House for new immigrants, then to Denmark to study Danish Folk Schools, which had uplifted and modernized 19th century Denmark.

Frank: Myles Horton’s interracial study groups in the 1930’s were for coal mine labor union leaders, 1940s for cotton mill union leaders, 1950s-60s for civil rights leaders: Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., and hundreds more.

Betty: At Myles Horton’s Highlander “We Shall Overcome,” the civil rights song heard round the world, was popularized by white folk singer Guy Carawan (1927- died May 2, 2015).

Frank: Horton’s Highlander workshops pioneered peaceful public school integration after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education outlawed separate white and black schools.

Betty: Myles Horton’s citizenship classes enabled blacks to read and write to meet voter registration requirements.

Frank: Myles Horton 1970s-80s classes helped elect black sheriffs, black mayors, plus other black officials.

Betty: Chicago author Studs Terkel wrote: “Were I to choose America’s most influential and inspiring educator, it would be Myles Horton of Highlander.”

Frank: Bill Moyers, aide to Pres. Lyndon Johnson, later PBS broadcaster, wrote: “[Myles Horton] has been beaten up, locked up, put upon … railed against by racists, toughs, demagogues, and governors. But…[for over 50 years] he …help[ed] people…discover within themselves the courage and ability to confront reality and change.”

Betty:   We have conveniently forgotten that the civil rights blacks fought for in the 1960s were, 100 years earlier, legally given to them in three post-Civil War U.S. Constitutional Amendments which Southern diehards subverted.

Frank: The 13th Amendment, U.S. Constitution (1865), abolished slavery; the 14th Amendment (1868) granted equal protection to all; the 15th Amendment (1870), granted voting rights.

Betty: What irony that 1960s black protesters shed blood to reinstate freedoms given them 100 years earlier in these 3 post Civil War Constitutional Amendments.

Frank: We now look at 3 main 1960s heroes, their motives and concerns; the three most responsible for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Betty: Dr. King, Pres. Kennedy, and Pres. Johnson.

Frank: We’ve mentioned King’s Montgomery, AL, bus boycott speech, but not the circumstances of his forever remembered “I have a dream” speech.

Betty: King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech Aug. 28, 1963, before 250,000 gathered on the mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument at the end of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Frank: The motive for the March was to press Congress to pass the stymied Civil Rights Bill. This largest ever gathering at the Washington, D.C. Mall had heavy media coverage and a long list of speakers.

Betty: No speaker wanted to be last, thinking the crowd would be leaving and TV coverage gone. Dr. King humbly took the last speaker spot.

Frank: King began his prepared speech when nearby seated black gospel singer Mahalia Jackson (1911-72), called to him: “Tell about your dream, Martin, tell about your dream.”

Betty: Leaving his script, animated, emotional, King’s 142 words, torn from his heart and soul, ended with…

Frank: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Betty: Overpowering applause, cheers and tears filled the gigantic mall at King’s shortest, greatest speech.

Frank: Second hero, Pres. John F. Kennedy, was immediately burdened with earth-shaking USA-USSR conflicts. He privately favored black demands. Publicly he was silent lest he lose Southern votes needed for his anticipated 1964 re-election.

Betty: Founding father Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Sr. (1888-1969) raised 9 children to be first and best in school, sports, and public service.

Frank: First born son, charismatic Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr., was groomed to seek the U.S. presidency. But he died in a WW II secret mission plane explosion.

Betty: Second son JFK, pressured to take his place, also in WW II, commanded a small PT Boat cut in two by a Japanese warship.

Frank: JFK saved one crew member’s life, got the rest to safety. His deeds, publicized by his father in a widely read magazine, helped make JFK a war hero. He served 6 years in the U.S. House of Representative, 8 years in the U.S. Senate (total, 14 years). His 1960 U.S. Presidency election win over Republican Richard Nixon was really razor thin.

Betty: During that 1960 Kennedy-Nixon presidential campaign Martin Luther King, Jr., with others in an Atlanta, GA, lunch room sit in, was arrested.

Frank: The others were freed but King was held in Georgia State Prison, Reidsville, GA, likely to be secretly beaten or killed.

Betty: Kennedy phoned King’s wife Coretta to comfort her while his brother, Robert Kennedy (1925-68), phoned Georgia officials and gained King’s release.

Frank: Result: A big black vote for JFK which helped his razor thin election win over Richard Nixon. 17

Betty: Pres. Kennedy was impressed by the peaceful dignity of that Aug. 28, 1963, “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” and by Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.   Afterwards JFK invited black leaders to the White House and endorsed their civil rights demands.

Frank: Months before his assassination JFK sent Congress two important bills for debate and passage: a tax cut bill to boost the economy and the before-mentioned near fool-proof Civil Rights bill which his staff had drafted to eliminate weaknesses that were in earlier civil rights acts.

Betty: Congressional segregationists planned to weaken or kill both bills, when Pres. Kennedy was assassinated.

Frank: His successor, Pres. Lyndon Johnson saved, improved, won passage of, and signed both historic bills into law.

Betty: Pres. Johnson also, used his legislative skills to fulfill many of the 1960s protesters’ demands and left a lasting legacy of far-reaching laws.

Frank: Pres. Kennedy, and to a lesser degree Martin Luther King, Jr. were from affluent families, well educated, bound to succeed. Not so Lyndon Johnson: humbly born, early deprived, who by conniving and by his wits became not only master of Congressional procedures but also of its intrigues.

Betty: Lyndon Johnson realized the Kennedys had reluctantly made him Vice President just to insure Southern votes for John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential win.

Frank: Johnson knew he was excluded from Kennedy’s inner circle.

Betty: Johnson feared he would be dropped from the ticket in JFK’s 1964 re-election bid.

Frank: Yet, Lyndon Johnson, unlikely hero, in the wrenching hours after Pres. Kennedy’s assassination, remembered his own early poverty, remembered his first job teaching poor Mexican Americans, remembered his 1930s Depression job for FDR as head of Texas National Youth Administration, remembered his private vow, if given power, to uplift America’s poor.

Betty: With presidential power unexpectedly thrust upon him, Lyndon Johnson did what neither Martin Luther King, Jr., nor Pres. John F. Kennedy, could do.

Frank: Pres. Lyndon Johnson used his great Congressional skills to win passage of both Pres. Kennedy’s tax cut bill and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Betty: Lyndon Johnson in the 1964 presidential election trounced Republican Barry Goldwater: won 61.1% popular vote and 44 of the 50 states.   Instead of being jubilant LBJ said sadly and correctly: We [Democrats] have lost the South to the Republicans for perhaps a generation.

Frank: Remember loser Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign remark, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice…and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue”–heralded the rise of a stronger conservative Republican Party and its recent Tea Party extremists.

Betty Worth brief mention is the Martin Luther King, Jr.-led Selma-to-Montgomery, AL, March for Voting Rights, right across Gov. George Wallace’s (1919-97) segregated heartland.

Frank: The Selma-to-Montgomery, AL, March was led in 3 phases over several weeks in March 1965.   Its goal was to press Congress to pass Pres. Lyndon Johnson-initiated Voting Rights Bill (later Voting Rights Act of 1965).

Betty: Blacks needed it badly because it removed segregationist restrictions specifically meant to keep blacks from their right to vote.

Frank: The Selma to Montgomery March for Voting Rights began on March 7, 1965, with some 600 marchers who after six blocks were viciously forced back by club swinging state and local police causing falls, injuries, 3 known deaths. A second march attempt on March 9, 1965, was aborted.

Betty: March 7, 1965, was later called Bloody Sunday because of the deaths of Viola Liuzzo, shot by the KuKluxKlan; white Rev. James Reeb, beaten by segregationists and died of head injuries; and black Jimmie Lee Jackson, shot dead by an Alabama state trooper.

Frank: On March 10, 1965, amid plans for the Selma to Montgomery March for Voting Rights, Pres. Johnson, when submitting his Voting Rights bill, said to Congress and the nation:

Betty: “[The Blacks’] cause must be our cause, too, because it is not just [Black Americans] but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.”

Frank: When Pres. Johnson ended this speech with: “And We Shall Overcome,” Martin Luther King, watching TV in Birmingham, wept.

Betty: In the third successful Selma to Montgomery, AL Voting Rights March, on March 21, 1965, some 25,000 reached Montgomery, the state capitol. Five months later Congress passed and LBJ signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Frank: Selma, the acclaimed 2014 film, was faulted for misrepresenting Pres. Johnson as opposing the Selma march. Johnson approved that march but suggested delay to Martin Luther King, Jr., not wanting to disrupt delicate behind-the-scenes congressional lobbying for passage of the Voting Rights Bill, passed and signed August 6, 1965.

Betty: Pres. Johnson’s fame has risen. Historian Robert Dallek called him the “Flawed Giant.” Pres. Johnson’s chief assistant Joseph A. Califano, Jr. (1931-) wrote in 2012 that Barack Obama’s presidency would not have been possible without Pres. Johnson’s backing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Frank: Califano called Pres. Johnson: “America’s most overlooked, complicated, liberal and legislatively productive president.”21 Johnson’s biographer, prize winner Robert A. Caro, wrote: Abraham Lincoln freed black Americans, but Lyndon Johnson got them into voting booths as full-fledged American citizens.

Betty: Lyndon Johnson gave us: Medicare for senior citizens; Medicaid and Food Stamps for the poor; Head Start for pre-school 4 and 5 year olds; federal aid to elementary and secondary education, Model Cities, clean air, water, and vehicle pollution laws; Immigration Reform Act, and much more.

Frank: Pres. Johnson deliberately signed Medicare into law at the Truman presidential library, Independence, MO, and gave Truman the first Medicare card. Why? Because Truman in his presidency had tried but failed to enact national health insurance. It was a nice gesture.

Betty: Pres. Johnson also appropriately chose to sign the Immigration Reform Act at New York Harbor’s Statue of Liberty. Why? Because at the statue’s base is Emma Lazarus’s (1849-87) moving poem:

Frank: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Betty: Truman and Johnson, both self-made men, had the presidency suddenly thrust upon them, Truman by Pres. Roosevelt’s death, Johnson by Pres. Kennedy’s assassination.

Frank: Truman was saddled with the unpopular Korean war, Johnson with the unpopular Vietnam war. Each, having replaced extremely popular presidents, was held in lower esteem.

Betty: Yet, both have since been highly esteemed for their accomplishments.

Frank: Pres. Johnson, like Pres. Kennedy, inherited the Vietnam War from Pres. Eisenhower, had no way to end it honorably, felt he had to escalate to win, not wanting to be the first president to lose a major war.

Betty: Pres. Johnson could not give us both guns (Vietnam War victory) and butter (Great Society). The anti-war chant, “LBJ, LBJ, how many kids have you killed today?” tore at his heart and soul.

Frank: LBJ said to Lady Bird: we did our best; time to go back to the ranch. He told a national audience, March 31, 1968: I will not run for re-election.

Betty: By 1968, the liberal hour was over. Richard Nixon was elected President. The Republicans were taking control.

Frank: Our 3 major 1960s heroes–King, Kennedy, Johnson, plus so many who helped them25 left us a goodly heritage. They gave us much but not everything the 1960s protesters fought for, suffered for, died for.

Betty: We honor the 1960s Protesters, the three heroes who backed them, the liberal U.S. Supreme Court who approved them. They made America better.

Frank: Now, Betty’s conclusion, and then mine.

Betty: Frank will alternate with me:

My first conclusion is, Yes, protesters and demonstrators made a difference. But our Liberal Hour book’s main point is that the 1960s great legacy came because the U.S. Congress passed the liberal laws we enjoy to this day.

Frank: Betty’s 2nd conclusion: How fortunate that the 1960s liberal laws were upheld by the most liberal Supreme Court in U.S. history under Chief Justice Earl Warren (1891-1974), a Republican.

Betty: My 3rd conclusion: Pres. Johnson’s legislative success provided us seniors with Medicare. Many of the needy have Food Stamps (since 1964) and Medicaid (since 1965). One-third of all Americans now have Medicare or Medicaid.

Frank: Betty’s final conclusion: The Civil Rights Act 1964 and the Voting Rights Act 1965 made blacks an important political force.

Betty: In reaction, Southern Democrats became conservative Republicans. ¶Now Frank’s Conclusion:

Frank: Slavery is old. From the beginning, living things fed off each other, in constant warfare, victors using defeated slaves as cheap, disposable labor.

Frank: Englishman John Newton (1725-1807), long ago, age 18, was seized off the streets, forced into the British Royal Navy, rose high, commanded ships, including slave ships; was near death in a violent storm, prayed for salvation, was saved. Later as hymnist, his words to a sad tune heard from below deck, from chained, packed, kidnapped black slaves, were: “Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

Frank: Heart-wrenching words. Jump ahead to 1960s: minority protesters 50 years ago put their lives on the line for freedom and civil rights.

Frank: Now, sadly, 2014-2015, white police shoot blacks resulting in race riots, women remain un-equal in jobs and salaries, unending wars continue, the poor increase, some religious groups, world-wide, hate and kill each other.

Frank: The task for generations ahead is: to transform 1-war into peace, 2-discord into harmony, 3-competition into reasonable cooperation. At discussion time, coming up, we hope some in this concerned audience will tell what needs to be done to create a more perfect union in a more peaceful world.

¶But Betty has a last request.

Betty: Before closing, we ask those here who knew Martin Luther King, Jr. please to stand. Now, anyone who protested in the 1960s please stand with them.   Our thanks and applause. ¶Win Stone will lead us in singing, “We Shall Overcome.”We end with: “We shall overcome, We shall overcome, We shall overcome some day. I do believe deep in my heart that we shall overcome someday.”



Books Used

  1. Busby, Horace. The Thirty-First of March; An Intimate Portrait of Lyndon Johnson’s Final Days in Office. NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005. Author was one of Pres. Johnson’s most trusted advisors.
  2. Caro, Robert A. The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power. See fine review of this masterly LBJ biography.


  1. Craats, Rennay. 20th Century USA; History of the 1960s. Mankato, MN, Weigl Publishers, 2001, 48 p., short, pithy, brief overview.
  2. Dallek, Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times 1961-1973. NY: Oxford University Press, 1998. Excellent account.
  3. Ellis, Sylvia. Freedom’s Pragmatist: Lyndon Johnson and Civil Rights. City, FL: University of Florida Press, 2013.
  4. Gitling, Todd. The Sixties: Years of Hope, Years of Rage. NY: Bantam Books, 1987.
  5. Goodwin, Richard N.   Remembering America. Boston, MA; Little, Brown and Co., 1988.   First hand account of the 1960s by advisor-writer for U.S. Presidents JFK speechwriter for, an adviser to and a confidant of, successively, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy and LBJ, both of whom did their best toward liberalizing 1960s problems. See insightful review of this book at:


  1. Meltzer, Milton.   There Comes A Time: The Struggle for Civil Rights. NY: Random House, 2001. Excellent, simple, thorough, balanced; has useful “Calendar of Civil Rights History, 1940-68.”
  2. Olsen, James S., Editor. Historical Dictionary of the 1960s. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999.
  3. Purdum, Todd S. An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties, and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. NY: Macmillan, 2014. Excellent coverage of the USA Civil Rights Act; sent to Congress by Pres. J.F. Kennedy where Southern segregationists planned to kill it; Pres. L.B. Johnson saved, improved, and signed it.
  4. Smith, Hedrick. Who Stole the American Dream? NY: Random House, 2012. How USA has been robbed of its dream of a broad middle class by favoring banks, Wall Street, and the rich over past 40 years.
  5. Stewart, John G. When Democracy Worked: Reflections on the Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Knoxville, TN, 2014. Author, legislative director for U.S. Senator Hubert H. Humphrey (D, Minn.), tells history of, and how he, Humphrey and others, worked hard maneuvering legislative passage through many hurdles of this centerpiece civil rights act of its time.
  6. Time-Life Books Editors. Turbulent Years: the 60s. Alexandria, VA. Editors of Time-Life Books, no year given, 192 pp. Thorough, news-journalism, coverage. End.

1960s Sources, extremely large, can be accessed via Google.com or other search engines by typing in such topics as: 1960s USA, 1960s Timelines, African American Protests, USA Civil Rights, etc., plus names of key 1960s persons named in above article.

Send corrections, comments: bfparker@frontiernet.net

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