Racial unrest by the summer of 1963 was at its height since the Civil War. President Kennedy picked up the situation at the close of the Eisenhower years at a time when tensions were rapidly increasing. By the summer of 1963, however, after a series of violent demonstrations in the South, particularly in Birmingham, Alabama, President Kennedy pushed for a very strong civil rights bill in Congress. The first of its kind since the Civil War, this bill drastically called for the end of all segregation in all public places. In the eyes of the civil rights movement leaders, this bill was long over due.
Kennedy's crusade began slowly to the dismay of many civil rights leaders in February of 1963. He began by sending the United States Congress a "Special Message on Civil Rights," stating,
Our Constitution is color blind, ...but the practices of the country do not always conform to the principles of the Constitution... Equality before the law has not always meant equal treatment and opportunity. And the harmful, wasteful and wrongful results of racial discrimination and segregation still appear in virtually every aspect of national life, in virtually every part of the nation (Loevy, 5).
Kennedy received praise for these strong and moving words yet was criticized for his weak legislative proposals to remedy the situation. By May of 1963, his proposal would change... [continues]
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