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Freedom's PragmatistLyndon Johnson and Civil Rights$
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Sylvia Ellis

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780813044569

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813044569.001.0001

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Civil Rights at the National Level

Civil Rights at the National Level

The Senate Years

(p.60) 3 Civil Rights at the National Level
Freedom's Pragmatist

Sylvia Ellis

University Press of Florida

This chapter discusses Johnson's shifting position on civil rights as his national profile grew and his political ambitions gathered steam. Despite being known as “Landslide Lyndon” because of his narrow and controversial victory in 1948, LBJ soon established himself in the Senate as an important southern Democrat whose racial views came under increasing scrutiny during the 1950s. Initially allying himself with conservatives who opposed civil rights change--notably in his relationship with the conservative senator from Georgia, Richard Russell--he soon distanced himself from segregationists in order to downplay his southern roots as his White House aspirations grew. This chapter addresses Johnson's response to the landmark 1954 Brown decision and the so-called Southern Manifesto that opposed it. As the civil rights movement grew in intensity and the nation witnessed the Montgomery bus boycott and the crisis at Little Rock, Johnson's decided to adopt an increasingly pro-civil rights position. Chapter 3 examines that choice and covers his decision to push Congress toward passage of the 1957 Civil Rights Act (the first civil rights legislation since Reconstruction). The chapter ends with an examination of Johnson's position on civil rights leading up to the 1960 presidential election and his decision to accept the vice presidency.

Keywords:   Landslide Lyndon, Senate, Richard Russell, Brown decision, Southern Manifesto, Montgomery bus boycott, Little Rock, 1957 Civil Rights Act, 1960 presidential election

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