1965 November 24

Sharp Divisions Mar White House Civil Rights Conference


Sharp differences of opinion over racial inequality in America produced conflict at a White House-sponsored conference on civil rights on this day. One major point of conflict was the report on the Negro Family, written by a Labor Department staff person and future U.S. Senator Daniel Moynihan earlier in the year. Many African-American activists argued that the report blamed African-Americans, rather than historic race discrimination, for the poverty and inequality in America.

And in a sign of the rapidly rising expectations of African-Americans, many civil rights leaders accused the Lyndon Johnson administration of not doing enough for civil rights. The accusation came in spite of the fact that President Johnson had been instrumental in passing both the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, two of the most important laws in American history.

President Johnson, in a speech at Howard University, on June 4, 1965, had been prescient in seeing that the U.S. was entering a new era of racial justice following the passage of the two civil rights laws, and that the challenges would now be different and difficult.

Learn more about President Johnson and his record on civil rights and civil liberties: Samuel Walker, Presidents and Civil Liberties from Wilson to Obama (2012)

Learn more about the Moynihan Report controversy: James T. Patterson, Freedom is Not Enough: The Moynihan Report and America’s Struggle over Black Family Life: From LBJ to Obama (2010)

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