Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Fifty years ago this evening, March 15, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson gave an address to the Congress of the United States in which he called for passage of voting rights legislation.
The speech came in response to the recent attack on peaceful civil rights protesters by police in Selma, Alabama.
President Johnson began his speech with these words...
"At times history and fate meet...to shape a turning point in man's unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was...at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama.
There, long-suffering men and women peacefully protested the denial of their rights as Americans. Many were brutally assaulted. One good man, a man of God, was killed."
"We are met here tonight as Americans...to solve...an American problem. The harsh fact is that in many places in this country men and women are kept from voting simply because they are Negroes.
The Constitution says that no person shall be kept from voting because of his race or his color (15th Amendment, 1870). We have all sworn an oath before God to support and defend that Constitution. We must act now in obedience to that oath."
President Johnson sent the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to Congress which proposed to eliminate illegal barriers to the right to vote. If enacted, the legislation would strike down voting restrictions in ALL federal, state, and local elections.
"The time of justice has now come. I believe sincerely that no force can hold it back."
The Voting Rights Act, sponsored by Democratic Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana and Republican Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois, was passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on August 6, 1965.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is the most far-reaching piece of civil rights legislation in United States History.
"President Lyndon B. Johnson's Address to Congress on Voting Rights," www.millercenter.org/
"The Voting Rights of Act of 1965," www.history.com/
"The Voting Rights Act of 1965," www.justice.gov/
LBJ & MLK, Jr.