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JFK and civil rights

...continued from Mouth of the Marmoset


When running for president in 1960, Kennedy had wooed the young and ethnic minority vote in much the same way as Obama did in 2008 and 2012. As a candidate, JFK spoke beautifully about equality, even supported Martin Luther King after the civil rights leader's conviction following a sit-in at a diner in Atlanta.

Critics say he only took a really strong public stance when stunning acts of bravery from black activists were met with equally stunning violence by the authorities, militias and the snarled lipped mobs of the South.

Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King

In an age of growing media coverage, pictures and reports from places like Birmingham, Alabama, where the insanely heroic Freedom Riders were viciously savaged by the KKK in collaboration with local law enforcement, spread out to the rest of the country and the world.


The Freedom Riders, a mixed group of activists, had been exercising their legal right to ride sitting beside each other on a bus rather than sitting the segregated why the local Jim Crow laws demanded.


Rather than support the riders, Kennedy's initial reaction was to call them unpatriotic and blamed them for handing Soviets a valuable propaganda tool.

It was his lack of action that led to the growth of militant civil rights groups like the Nation of Islam because people grew tired of waiting for change via peaceful means.


Whether it was concern about Khrushcev, a carrot to black voters ahead of the upcoming election or a genuine desire for equality, it wasn't until 1963, in the penultimate year of his first term, that he gave his, admitted breathtaking, civil rights address which set out the Civil Rights Act, ratified seven months after his death.


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