Fifty Years Ago, Strange Bedfellows Helped Break The Back Of Jim Crow

Apr 23, 2014

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act, July 2, 1964.
Credit Cecil Stoughton/White House Press Office

Half a century ago, Tennessee and other Southern states looked a little different. If you were a person of color, signs dictated the right building entrance to use, the correct water fountain, the right restroom, and more importantly, the wrong places. The places you couldn’t go. Those areas were reserved for white people only. Fifty years ago this summer – less than a lifetime ago – all that began to change. That was the summer a headstrong president and a divided Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a landmark piece of legislation chronicled in Todd Purdum’s new book, An Idea Whose Time Has Come.

On April 23, WUOT All Things Considered host Brandon Hollingsworth spoke with Purdum about this historic law and the people who helped shape it.

Links to speeches referenced in the conversation:

Vice President Johnson at Gettysburg, May 30, 1963


LBJ addresses Congress five days after taking office, November 27, 1963


Kinescope television recording

Johnson's statement on signing the Civil Rights Act, July 2, 1964


Television recording