1965 January 15

LBJ Calls Martin Luther King; Plans Voting Rights Strategy

 

President Lyndon B. Johnson called Dr. Martin Luther King on this day, ostensibly to congratulate him on his birthday. LBJ’s real purpose, however, was to plan a strategy on how to generate public support for a federal voting rights act. As one historian has written, by the end of the phone call, the president and the civil rights leader sounded like two veteran politicians plotting strategy. Johnson clearly supported King’s plan for demonstrations in Selma, Alabama. Recordings and transcripts of the phone conversation are widely available. Without the recordings, it is unlikely that many people would believe the conversation actually occurred.

National outrage followed the brutal beating of civil rights marchers on “Bloody Sunday” (March 7, 1965), to  as the marchers were halted in their attempt to march to Montgomery, Alabama, to demand voting rights legislation. President Johnson followed up with one of his greatest speeches, “The American Promise,” on March 15, 1965, in support of voting rights.The historic 1965 Voting Rights Act became law on August 6, 1965.

Read the Transcript of the conversation: http://whitehousetapes.net/transcript/johnson/wh6501-04-6736

Listen to the conversation at the Miller Center: http://millercenter.org/scripps/archive/presidentialrecordings/johnson/1965/01_1965

Read: David Garrow, Protest at Selma: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (1978)

Don’t Miss the acclaimed film: Selma (2015)

Read the monumental Three-Volume biography of Dr. King by Taylor Branch: Parting the Waters (1998); Pillar of Fire (1998); At Canaan’s Edge (2006)

Learn more: Ari Berman, Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America (2015)

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