1960 February 27

GOP Leader Senator Dirksen Supports Good Civil Rights Bill


Senator Everett Dirksen, Republican leader from Illinois, announced on this day that he supported a “reasonably good” civil rights bill, which was then pending in Congress. The bill eventually passed as the very weak 1960 Civil Right Act (May 6, 1960). In 1963-64, Dirksen played a crucial role in securing Republican support for what became the very important 1964 Civil Rights Act (July 2, 1964). Republican votes were necessary to offset the opposition from southern Democrats who opposed any kind of civil rights law.

In an important symbolic gesture, Dirksen made his remarks at Cooper Union in New York City, marking the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s speech there in 1860, which historians regard as helping him to win the presidency in November 1960.

In his 1860 address, Lincoln said that “I hold there is no reason in the world why the Negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence.”

Read: Edward L Schapsmeier andFrederick H Schapsmeier, Dirksen of Illinois: Senatorial Statesman (1985)

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