Free at last Thank God almighty we are free at last that captured the nations

Free at last thank god almighty we are free at last

This preview shows page 20 - 22 out of 32 pages.

with the exclamation from a traditional black spiritual — “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!” — that captured the nation’s imagination. The sight of 250,000 blacks and whites marching solemnly together marked the high point of the civil rights movement and confirmed King’s position as the leading spokesperson for the cause. To have any chance of getting the civil rights bill through Congress, King,Randolph, and Rustin knew they had to sustain this broad coalition of blacks and whites. They could afford to alienate no one. Reflecting a younger, more militant set of activists, however, SNCC member John Lewis had prepared a more provocative speech for that afternoon. Lewis wrote, “The time will come when we will not confine our marching to Washington. We will march through the South, through the Heart of Dixie, the way Sherman did.” Signaling a growing restlessness among black youth, Lewis warned: “We shall fragment the South into a thousand pieces and put them back together again in the image of democracy.” Fearing the speech would alienate white supporters,Rustin and others implored Lewis to tone down his rhetoric. With only minutes to spare before he stepped up to the podium, Lewis agreed. He delivered a more conciliatory speech, but his conflict with march organizers signaled an emerging rift in the movement. Although the March on Washington galvanized public opinion, it changed few congressional votes. Southern senators continued to block Kennedy’s legislation. Georgia senator Richard Russell, a leader of the opposition,refused to support any bill that would “bring about social equality and intermingling and amalgamation of the races.” Then, suddenly, tragedies piled up, one on another. In September, white supremacists bombed a Baptist church in Birmingham, killing four black girls in Sunday school. Less than two months later, Kennedy himself lay dead, the victim of assassination. On assuming the presidency, Lyndon Johnson made passing the civil rights bill a priority. A southerner and former Senate majority leader, Johnson was renowned for his fierce persuasive style and tough political bargaining. Using equal part’s moral leverage, the memory of the slain JFK, and his own brand of hardball politics, Johnson overcame the filibuster. In June 1964, Congress approved the most far-reaching civil rights law since Reconstruction. The keystone of the Civil Rights Act, Title VII, outlawed discrimination in employment on the basis of race, religion, national origin, and sex. Another section guaranteed equal access to public accommodations and schools. The law granted new enforcement powers to the U.S. attorney general and established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to implement the prohibition against job discrimination. Freedom Summer
The Civil Rights Act was a law with real teeth, but it left untouched the obstacles to black voting rights. So protesters went back into the streets. In 1964, in the period that came to be known as Freedom Summer, black organizations mounted a major campaign in Mississippi. The effort drew several thousand volunteers from across the

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture

  • Left Quote Icon

    Student Picture