How Did Kennedy's Actions Influence The Civil Rights Movement

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For white Southerners, keeping blacks away from the ballot box was crucial. Blacks were a large percent of the population and especially in the deep South, a black voting block could change the power structure. The vote was the key to official power and the perquisites of power. A Voter Education Project was begun in 1962 and met serious and even violent resistance. A black who tried to register in Mississippi was shot at by a white. One registrar drew a gun and ordered a black activist to leave. Several activists were beaten. Sitkoff says, ‘only a significant federal presence in the Deep South might have saved the voter registration program.’ (124) Blacks saw President Kennedy as a ‘temporizer and manipulator’ who would act only ‘when it suited his…show more content…
Leaders planned and instructed participants in proper action and in dealing with resistance, both official and non-official. They were fully aware of how their actions affected national politicians like Kennedy and Johnson. Sitkoff implies that Kennedy introduced ‘the most comprehensive civil rights law in history’ (158) in June 1963 in response to black activism. One of Kennedy’s motives was to ‘assist Farmer and King and Wilkins in securing their objectives lest the movement be taken over by extremists.’ (156) Voting rights was ‘not on Johnson’s agenda’ (186) after the 1964 election. In late 1964, King and the SCLC staff ‘plotted a strategy’ and ‘set as their goal a strong voting-rights law.’ (187) They deliberately chose Selma, Alabama as the ‘focal point of their campaign’ partly because the believed the county sheriff’s reaction would be ‘vicious and violent’ (188) and would ‘provide the notoriety and martyrdom necessary for the national attention and support that would result in voting rights legislation.’ (188) By mid-March, Johnson requested that Congress pass a voting rights
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