1965 March 15

“We . . . Shall . . . Overcome”: LBJ Gives Historic Voting Rights Speech


President Lyndon Johnson on this day delivered his Voting Rights speech to Congress, entitled “The American Promise.” The speech is widely regarded as one of the greatest presidential speeches in American history because of the way LBJ framed the current crisis over voting rights in terms of the deepest values of American society. LBJ embraced the slogan of the Civil Rights Movement, “We … Shall … Overcome.”

The speech came one week after “Bloody Sunday,” March 7, 1965, when Alabama police blocked the famous voting rights march, from Selma to Montgomery, by brutally beating the marchers. On March 21, 1965, the march resumed and reached Montgomery, Alabama, on March 25, 1965.

President Johnson signed the historic Voting Rights Act into law on August 6, 1965.

LBJ: “I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy. I urge every member of both parties, Americans of all religions and of all colors, from every section of this country, to join me in that cause.”

Read the speech: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/print.php?pid=26805

Read: Garth Pauley, LBJ’s American Promise: The 1965 Voting Rights Address (1965)

Watch LBJ Deliver His Famous Speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxEauRq1WxQ

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

Follow a timeline on the 1965 Voting Rights Act: https://www.aclu.org/timeline-history-voting-rights-act

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