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tv   Voting Rights Act of 1965  CSPAN  August 2, 2015 5:00pm-6:03pm EDT

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serene, powerful unafraid. she and her planes will come again someday but not until the end. not until the bitter, glorious end. for she is, and we salute her the fighting lady. >> now american history tv looks back 50 years at the voting rights act of 1965. we will listen in on white house telephone calls between president johnson and his aides, civil rights leader martin luther king jr., and members of congress, who strategized how to enact and enforce the voting law.
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host: it will be 50 years ago this august that president lyndon johnson passed the civil rights voting act. we will be talking to experts as well as going behind the scenes with white house telephone recordings. let's introduce our experts. joining us in washington, d.c. kent germany. he is a history professor at the university of south carolina but also the editor of the lyndon b. johnson project at the university of virginia. thanks for joining us. mr. germany: it is my pleasure. host: our next guest was the secretary of health, education and welfare, and he was the author of the triumph and tragedy of lyndon johnson. thank you for joining us. mr. califano: nice to be with
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you. host: before we starts, a little bit about your perspectives. mr. germany, the lbj project what is that? mr. germany: it is a gold-mining project. it is trying to get all of the recordings transcribed, edited annotated, anything you would need to know to understand what is going on in a conversation. the editors are there. we are trying to put everything out from the assassination. all the way through the end of 1969. so, it is lyndon johnson's vision of history with the bark off and you're talking about a lot of bark on with these telephone calls. host: what do the telephone calls reveal? mr. germany: lyndon johnson was extremely busy. the voting rights act was one thing that was going on in he
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1965. was deeply dedicated to getting very significant voting rights legislation passed and he is not going to yield on it. you also get to see -- people called him a magician. they called him a lot of different things. one thing he definitely is is effective, and you get to see lyndon johnson pulling a lot of different strings. but often doing it quietly. host: why you think that lyndon johnson was so intent on getting this done? particularly when he had the 1964 act on civil rights? mr. califano: he dealt with discrimination and workplace and in schools, but he thought the voting rights act was the most important piece of legislation he would pass. and it would dramatically give power to african-americans had been kept away from the polls deliberately in the south for
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but also in some other areas for many, many years, and indeed, as i think we may hear he thought it would take care of 70% of their problems. he told martin luther king that. he told us. this is the most important piece of legislation. he believed in the vote. that was his life. remember, this was a guy elected to congress in 1938 and basically was in a house elections, senate elections for the remainder of his life and he saw how important votes were when he won big, so he could get voting rights and other things passed. host: mr. califano, in your book, you say the part of the reason was he thought it was a race against time. can you expand on that and give us his perspective? mr. califano: yes, in triumph
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and tragedy, which i appreciate you mentioning, he was in a race against time. he thought that once there was light at the end of the tunnel, what the oppressed had accepted as inevitable became intolerable. he was constantly concerned that we had to move fast on voting rights, civil rights, other -- on enforcing them on other legislation, because there was inevitable impatience, once they could see there was a chance to access whether it was health programs, jobs, education programs. he always used to say, let's get the bill up there. let's get it passed. let's get the departments enforcing it. he was very, very conscious of that, and indeed, to say the people we are trying to help could do the most damage to our
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civil rights and voting rights efforts, as we saw in some of the disturbances -- the riots in watts, in newark, in detroit over that time. host: let's start by looking at the phone calls. even though this was done in 1965, we will start at the starting point. the president is talking to his attorney general. it is the first conversation we hear. it is a month after the president's landslide victory in 1964. let's listen to that. president johnson: i want you to take the greatest midnight legislative drafting that has happened since they wrote the whole income tax. basically, i believe if we can
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have a simple, effective method of getting them registered -- now if the state laws are too high and disqualify a bunch of them maybe we can go to the supreme court and get that held unconstitutional. if the registrar makes them stand in line to long, maybe we can work that way out -- so the postmasters can do that. let's just find some debway -- mr. katzenbach: let's go through the other alternatives we've got. president johnson: get the best people you have got. see what you can do and we are going to need it pretty quick. host: mr. califano, let's start with you about that phone call. not only is he trying to start the process, emphasizing he means it quick, fill us in on what was going on. mr. califano: that day, he met
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with martin luther king or was meeting with him after that phone call, andrew young. it was generally the conversation what he could do for blacks in the united states, about civil rights generally also about jobs. that conversation was the first real conversation he had with dr. king about voting rights. he made it clear in that meeting , which within the white house too young and king that he was going to get voting rights to the congress and passed in the next year. it was very much on his mind. as i said, he thought it was the crown jewel of his presidency. host: what was the attorney general's reaction? what was the attorney general's concerns? mr. califano: katzenbach immediately began working with
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it. you have to remember, voting rights was on the civil rights at the end of -- agenda. nobody thought anything could happen with it. it was a much tougher bill to pass than the 1964 civil rights act. katzenbach went back to these justice department. and he started drafting. eventually -- i do not know if you will have the phone conversation, the next phone conversation lbj had was with dr. king on january 15. i don't want to jump the gun -- host: we are going to exactly get to that in just a bit. mr. germany, give us some perspective on what you hear especially from this conversation and what he added. mr. germany: lyndon johnson starts off about the new deal. this is his reference. he wanted this done faster than that midnight legislative drafting party during the new deal. so, lyndon johnson is deeply
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rooted into this long preriod of liberalism. he is getting them going. katzenbach had been there for ole miss. he had been there all through the kennedy administration, into the johnson administration. he was the civil rights backbone for the justice department. he was the acting attorney general as bobby kennedy had run and won as the senator from new york. he was the person really getting this legislation to go through. he is a fascinating person. world war ii hero, prisoner of war in world war ii. he is an anchor and someone who is often forgotten in the mainstream understanding of the civil rights movement. host: lbj had a clear idea of how he wanted to develop the -- how we wanted this to progress other than leaving it to others to develop the plan. is that a fair assessment? mr. germany: absolutely. he puts together the testimony is going to put before
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committees. johnson is a details guy, and katzenbach is going to make sure that the i's are dotted and t's are crossed. host: would you agree the president had an idea how how he wanted this to progress from day one? mr. califano: no question. he looked at the senate, the problem was the filibuster. in those days, he was two thirds of the senate, so 67 votes. he had to get 67 votes to break what would be a southern filibuster, and a long southern filibuster. so, he knew who's going to have to work with everett dirksen. but first, he wanted to have a real sense of the bill. he wanted to know what all of the traps were. he wanted to know how to get it done so it would be effective. he wanted to make sure it would
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be delivered to him and the -- that a delivered to him in the justice department enough power so they could really get something done when it came to enforcing what congress passed. as you will see, as we will go a long, everett dirksen became a very important part of this legislation, and lyndon johnson knew that from the moment, if not before, he talked to nick katzenbach on the 14th of december. host: let's move forward a little bit. not a phone conversation. president johnson goes to howard university, delivers a speech at howard university, talking about his civil rights division, justice. -- his civil rights vision, justice. let's hear a portion of that speech. president johnson: what is justice? it is to fulfill the fair expectations of man.
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thus american justice is a very special thing. for from the first, this has been a land of towering expectations. it was to be a nation where each man could be ruled by the common consent of all. enshrined in law, given life by institutions, guided by men themselves, subject to its rule. and all, all, of every station and origin will be touched equally in obligation and liberty. beyond the law lays the land. it was a rich land, glowing with more abundance promise then man
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had ever seen. here, unlike any place yet known, all were to share the harvest. beyond this was the dignity of man. each could become whatever his qualities of mind and spirit would permit -- to strive, to seek, and if he could, to find his happiness. this is american justice. we have proceeded faithfully to the edge of our imperfections , and we have failed to find it for the american negro. so, it is the glorious opportunity of this generation to end the one huge wrong of the
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american nation, and in so doing, to find america for ourselves, with the same immense thrill of discovery which gripped those who first began to realize that here at last was a home for freedom. [applause] host: it is important to note that he is making the speech at a historic black college in the united states. he is clearly make an argument about the legislation that is coming. mr. germany, what sense do you get from the argument he is making from that speech? mr. germany: he is making an argument that america is not black or white. america is black and white. and americans are all the same. that will be the core of the selma speech that he makes.
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you hear early in that summer, he is making this speech this is an american problem, this is not just -- in the words of the day -- a negro problem. and just after the clip we just listen to, he quotes scripture about lighting a candle inside and not letting it burn out. it is a fire that cannot burn out. johnson is tapping into that as well. host: mr. califano, as you listen to this speech, what is going through your mind? give us a sense of where you were at the time. what was going through your mind? mr. califano: the speech was a very important one across the board, as kent was indicating. this was the speech where johnson laid out, articulated his notion of affirmative action. two runners at the starting line, one in chains for years and the other training for years
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and can you call it a fair race when you put them both at the starting line? also there is also a very , important point to underscore. lyndon johnson made it to dr. king on -- and one of the phone conversations and on many occasions. let's not call this a bill for negro voting rights. this is a bill for voting rights for all. everyone is entitled to a right to vote, whether they are white, black, mexican, whatever. and that is the way we should frame this. everyone's right to vote. i think that was also part of johnson. lastly, this point about the dignity -- when he goes to congress with the voting rights bill, he talks about, here for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy -- to him the vote was at the core of our
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nation's ability to say we are a democratic society. host: mr. califano, did he write the speech himself? how much input did he have in the speech itself? mr. califano: he had a lot of input on every speech. i think it good 1 -- i think dick goodwin was the main speechwriter on this speech, but a lot of people took a look at it. harry mcpherson, other staffers. and i do think it is important to remember -- you can go to the library, you can go to the lbj library and see what he wrote in various drafts. as you can see, as you can do when you listen to these tapes that tends -- kent has been
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putting together and been making available to people for years just by going online, down to the miller center in the university of virginia -- you can listen to the entire speech, which in this case is certainly worth listening to. host: mr. germany, i am interested in the language. especially the language. this is american justice. we have failed to find american justice for the american negro. what about that? mr. germany: there were many different lbj's. there was the public statesman lbj. he was a speech teacher. he taught high school speech. that comes out in his public speeches. behind the scenes, on the telephone, sometimes you do hear some of that statesman johnson. a lot of times you hear the more colloquial johnson where he lays it out as you would when the door is closed. that is one of the things you do get on the private telephone recordings you do not get in these public speeches. bill moyers has a famous phrase.
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lyndon johnson was the 13 most interesting man he knew in his life. you get all 13 men and these recordings. host: this conversation is between the president and martin luther king junior. before we go to the conversation describe the relationship between the two men at the time. mr. germany: it is tricky. lyndon johnson has succeeded in assassinated president. he has this massive electoral victory in 1964. martin luther king junior, in many parts of the country, is the most hated american. that is one thing we lose sight of. there was a lot of opposition to martin luther king junior. there were billboards all over the south claiming he was a communist. johnson is concerned. there are fbi reports coming to johnson from j edgar hoover who despised king and the civil rights movement. johnson is wary, but you can see evidence that he is an ally. but allies are not necessarily
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people that go swimming naked in the white house pool, which a lot of people did. allies are people that often get along the least. so the both of things that they are going for an things that they want to read to that point is the trick in politics. it is the art of the possible. you have two men who were exquisite politicians. host: we will hear that and family will get joe califano's thoughts. dr. king, it's very interesting mr. president, to note that the only state you did not carry in the south was my home state. and less than 40% of the negroes registered to vote. [indiscernible] at the university of texas a recent article brought this
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out very clearly, to demonstrate the importance of negroes registered to vote in the south and it will be a coalition of the negro vote and the moderate white vote that will make the new south. president johnson: that is exactly right. i think it is important that we do not say we do this because it is negroes and whites. but we take the position that every person born in this country when they reach a certain age, they have a right to vote. just like they have a right to fight. and we extend it whether it is a negro or a mexican or who it is. number two, i think we do not want special privilege for anybody. we want equality for all. we can stand on that principle. i think you can contribute a great deal by getting your leaders, and you yourself, taking very simple examples of
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discrimination -- where a man has to memorize longfellow or has to quote the first 10 amendments or he has to tell you what amendment 15, 16, 17 is and then ask them if they know and show what happens. some people do not have to do that, but when a negro comes in, he has got to do it. if we can repeat and repeat and repeat -- i do not want to follow hitler but he had not idea. if you take a simple thing and repeat it often enough, even if it was not true, people -- if -- people will accept it. if you can find the worst condition you run into, alabama, mississippi, louisiana, north -- south carolina. i think one of the worst i ever
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heard of was the president of the school of tuskegee, part of the government department or something being denied the right to cast the vote. you just take that one illustration, get it on radio and television, get it on in the pulpits, in the meetings, every place you can, pretty soon the fellow that did not do anything but drive a tractor, he will say, that's not right. that's not fair. dr. king: yeah. president johnson: that will help us, what we are going to shove through in the end. dr. king: you're exactly right about that. president johnson: if we do that, it will be the greatest breakthrough of anything, not even accept -- except this 1964 act. the greatest achievement of my presidency, i said to record yesterday, was the 1964 civil rights act. this will be bigger because it will do things even the 1964 act
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could not do. host: mr. califano, your thoughts on this phone conversation? mr. califano: it shows several things. one, they were partners in the effort to pass this. they were very good politicians. we think of martin luther king as a preacher, but as kent indicated, he was a very good politician. johnson was careful with anybody, but remember, dr. king said, whenever he went to see johnson, all he wanted to talk about was how he could get a law passed. how he could do this. when he would go to see president kennedy, the first thing he would be asked was, do you have comments or advice? you got to do this, you got to do that? because hoover was pumping this stuff into the white house. now the other very important
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point that comes out of this lbj realized he needed that. he needed something to ignite the people so that could put pressure on the congress. it was a big part of what became selma. this took place on january 15. at that point -- certainly in december, as andrew young said neither johnson nor king knew , anything about selma. it was julian bond, another civil rights leader, down there, trying to agitate and get the vote, to get people registered to vote and have some kind of demonstration. king comes back to lbj, i believe it was february 9, and he meets with them and tells
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him, he has the place, the place is selma. johnson hopes there will be no violence there. there was her rent this violence there, as we note -- there was horrendous violence there, as we know, with a white minister getting killed and john lewis getting quite beat up. at that point, johnson calls as -- governor george wallace to the white house, setting the stage, so to speak. wallace says to him, i cannot protect the voters and lbj says, don't tell me that, george. i can't do anything about the voting booth. don't tell me that, george. you were able to make sure the votes were there to beat me in alabama. and then, wallace says he cannotjohnson indicates to him if he can't protect the marchers, he will have to protect them -- he, lbj, will have to protect the marchers. in one of johnson's great lines
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which is, don't talk to me like that, george. that is bs. it is a lot easier to slip on bullshit than it is on gravel. johnson has wallace go out to be white house and meet the press the press corps is out there, knowing wallace will recite all of the segregationist stuff. this was the guy that said segregation forever. which is all part of setting the stage for a court case in alabama that ultimately becomes a case that gave marchers the right to vote -- i'm sorry, the right to demonstrate and have the march from selma to montgomery and also provided the hook that lbj needed to federalize the alabama national guard, put it under his control so it could be ordered to protect the marchers as they
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went in the glorious part of the selma march. from selma to montgomery alabama. where incidentally, in a speech , in montgomery, martin luther king thanks lbj for what he did. they both knew -- i think one thing johnson really knew was he needed king to get this legislation passed and king knew he needed johnson using all of his skills, which were enormous and varied, to get the legislation passed. they did something together that neither could have done alone. host: mr. germany, what do you have to say about that? mr. germany: lyndon johnson is in the white house. there are a lot of people in selma, alabama that are trying to get things pushed. king is like the pressure valve.
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he is the thing that johnson goes through where that mass pressure comes up. it is that pressure really driving this is voting rights thing. johnson is being pushed along, i think, gladly. he does not want to have to send in the army, but he's willing to send in the army, if necessary. host: let's go forward to when he has to get this through the legislature. a quick snapshot of lbj's relationship with congress. mr. germany: there are a lot of conservative democrats that do not want this. to get this passed needs a lot of republicans to support it. they have to -- lbj has to get the support of republicans. republicans in the house and the senate. we will listen to everett dirksen later on.
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it is johnson's ability to know who does what in congress that gets this thing to work. not necessarily putting his thumb on somebody and pushing them, but to have somebody else do the pushing. host: mr. califano, he speaks with the senate majority leader mike mansfield and the senate minority leader everett dirksen. talk about their relationship with lbj. mr. califano: everett dirksen was critical. he was critical to getting the republicans that were essential to breaking the filibuster so the voting rights act could get out of the senate. mansfield was a highly different kind of leader than johnson was, and johnson, incidentally, was very conscious of that.
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he used to say, it has got to bother mansfield how people say what a great senate leader i was and how i control it and mansfield was much more laid back, philosophical than johnson was, and that has got to hurt and we've got to be sensitive about that, but we needed them both. what he ultimately was aiming for, what he was aiming for was to get a bill that both of them would sign up on and really push through. host: let's listen to the conversation between the majority leader in the minority leader with the president. president johnson: excuse me. i had a bunch of people in the office. how are you getting along? mr. mansfield: [indiscernible] president johnson: great job. wonderful, wonderful. how are you, my friend? glad to hear you.
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mr. dirksen: all right. president johnson: how are you feeling, everett? mr. dirksen: i would feel better if you rustled me up half a dozen votes. president johnson: you told me you did not want to. mr. dirksen: i weighed you to be on the right side. president johnson: you had a lot to do that. all right. mr. dirksen: [indiscernible] not supporting the house position. president johnson: i will. and let me ask you -- my judgment on this judges bill. is that a necessary bill?
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mr. dirksen: well, the judicial conference recommended it. frankly, i do not know if we need it until next year. president johnson: for the hearings in the judiciary? mr. dirksen: [indiscernible] they work rather closely -- president johnson: you should have made a helluva speech there today. i wish i was there to hear it. mr. dirksen: why were you not here? president johnson: i can't have any fun anymore. they won't let me get out. if i could come out and visit you, i would do it every night. mr. dirksen: why don't you do it? president johnson: if you stay there for 10, 15 minutes, i might do it. i am lonesome, and i would like to see you. mr. dirksen: are you kidding? all right, my office.
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host: did that drink happen? mr. califano: that drink did happen. lbj went right up there and had a drink. i think there were some interesting things about drinks. drinking up there -- everybody is on the same footage, but when johnson and dirksen had many drinks at the white house and when those strings were served he would make sure that dirksen got an ounce and a half of bourbon, and he, lbj, would drink about half an ounce of scott, which was johnson using every technique he could use. the other thing i have to put into this conversation which was, early on when he was talking to dirksen about the voting rights bill, there was a point where he said everett, you come with me -- dirksen was from illinois. he said, you come with me on
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this voting rights bill and 100 years from now there will only be two people who will remember from the state of illinois. one will be a rally can and the -- one will be abraham lincoln and the other will be everett dirksen. and dirksen loved that. he loved that kind of appreciation and flattery and johnson knew how to music. if you listen to these phone conversations he and his team are putting together, you really get a sense of his ability to touch exactly the right point with everybody. and the fact that all is said and done and the majority leader and the minority leader of the united dates senate get in the minority leader's office to call the president and say we have got the bill, the bill is out -- think of that in the context of the world we are living in in the united states today and the
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possibility of mitch mcconnell and harry reid getting together -- that does not happen together. mr. germany: maybe it was more like the set of "mad men" were you could go get a drink during the day. there was a key legislative bill. make sure the sober people stayed sober and the drinking folks kept drinking. that is part of what is going on here. everett dirksen was critical to so much that was going on. that voice to her there, gravelly, like somebody walking on a country road, that was a famous voice. nicholas katzenbach talked about it. people said that dirksen instead of the wizard of oz, he was the wizard of ooze.
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it was that ooze that made things work. host: what was it like for republicans to work with the president on this legislation? mr. germany: you had to be careful. you did not want to get too tied up with johnson. on the telephone -- you can tell what dirksen does is try to get amendments to whittle down what the republicans wanted. the republicans wanted to support the civil rights bill, but they wanted their version of it and johnson would not let them. dirksen realized he could not do anything. that is when he says, the powerful idea, it's time as calm. -- time has come. host: mr. califano, we have to move on, but a quick response? mr. califano: one more comment -- lyndon johnson's instructions
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to all of us on the senior staff were you treat mike mansfield and everett dirksen the same. in the house, you treat speaker mccormick and the minority leader, who was gerald ford, the same. give them the same accommodations. so, he saw the terrific importance of having republicans in a large part of his great society legislation. it was not just civil rights. the southern democrats controlled the committees and oppose just about every part of the great society. the spending, putting the power in the hands of the federal government. they were very, very important. host: let's go to august 6 1965. the capitol rotunda where
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president johnson signed the voting rights act. you will get a chance to see that entire speech, the 50-minute event, but here is johnson signing the civil rights act. president johnson: let me say to every negro in this country, you must register, you must vote you must learn, so your choice advances your interest and the interest of our beloved nation. [applause] your future and your children's future depend upon it, and i do
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not believe you are going to let them down. this act is not only a victory for negro leadership. this act is a great challenge to that leadership. it is a challenge which cannot be met simply by protest and demonstration. it means that dedicated leaders must work around the clock to teach people their rights and their responsibilities and to lead them to exercise those rights and to fulfill those responsibilities and those duties to their country. and if you do this, then you will find, as others have found before you, that the vote is the most powerful instrument ever
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devised by man for breaking down in justice -- injustice and destroying the terrible laws which imprison men as different from other men. today in what may be the last of the legal barriers is coming and there may be many more before the actions will be into law are also woven into the fabric of our nation but the struggle for equality must now move to a ifferent battlefield. it is nothing less than granting every american negro his freedom to enter the mainstream of american life. host: mr. califano, it sounds at the time he is putting the onus
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on african-americans to go forward and make something happen with the legislation? mr. califano: yes, absolutely. the table he is sitting at when he signed the bill, the morning of that day, he said to me, i want you to get a table, a nice small table and get it up to the capital. i want you to pick it up and get it back so we have it. someday that can go in the library, and it is today in the lbj library. it is one of the most potent demonstrations there. he was willing to do his part, incidentally, and he did. he wanted katzenbach to file lawsuits to go after the poll tax in some states, declare them unconstitutional. wanted federal monitors into as many counties as possible. at he
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knew the passing of the law was step one. so, we have employees, we have federal employees. katzenbach can name the monitors, and we did get monitors and to a lot of the state. i think lastly, john lewis told me, and i had forgotten this -- two things. on the way up to make that signing statement and sign the bill, in the limousine, i was in the limousine. he said, this will really change america if the negroes vote. if they vote. and then after that, john lewis said, you know, the president grabbed him and grabbed a couple of the others -- or member, john
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lewis in those days was one of the "radical" young guys in the protest area. and he got him and a couple of the others and said, you are the young guys. you guys have the energy now. you go from protest to politics. get those negroes off to the voting booth. get them to vote. get them to sign up. drive them, what have you. john lewis said years later to me, you know, when i ran for congress, i remember all of the things lyndon johnson told me to do. get the grandmas in the car, get the young people to drive them to be polling booths, all of the things you do to get people to vote. this was lyndon johnson's world. i say in my book, we are living in lyndon johnson's world today with all of the laws, but this certainly was, and look what it
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has done in terms of the congress and the senators and the federal government and the thousands of state and local people who are black, who are elected all over this country. host: mr. germany, in the speech, he uses terms like it will be a different battlefield. he knew that even with the passage of this law, there was a lot of work to do. mr. germany: there was a lot of work to do. you go back and listen to that conversation between king and johnson. he said the new south was going to pick built from progressive white democrats and african-american voters never comes the backbone of the democratic party. i think that was lyndon johnson's vision from 1960 four, to remake the democratic party. if you look at the -- from 1964, to remake the democratic party. if you look of the population, there were several counties that
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had no black voters registered and had not had black voters registered for 60 years. there was a major problem in the south. johnson comes around and he is putting down new bricks to reconstruct these support structures for what he envisions as the great society. host: go ahead, mr. califano, if you want to throw a quick thought in. mr. califano: as kent knows, signing the 1964 act, i am turning over the south to the republican party for maybe my lifetime and yours, he told the lawyers. -- for my lifetime and may be yours. but he knew the power of the vote would change the south and it has and it is changing the south. just think about the republican senator who survived -- was at louisiana -- was it louisiana?
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because he got the black vote to help him. host: a quick response, mr. germany? mr. germany: absolutely. you can go through the 1990's where the democratic party is still the dominant party in the south. it is much less so over the last 10 years. host: we continue on, on the same day the legislation is passed, the president makes another phone call with the attorney general. he is talking with mississippi governor paul johnson. he is talking about federal examiners. here's a bit of that conversation. president johnson: he says, they will send them into the county and they didn't old study and you do not need it, that is number one. a number two, if you look at the others who are in the state, if you look at these laws -- a told you this was exactly what was
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going to happen. you just insight them and make it worse. and if you turned it into 18 it would be all right and that is not but 10 days. and he wished he could find some way to instruct them. the first one shows up and they say, oh, there is a damn yankee telling us what to do. i told him i would talk to you about it. and i asked him to study about it over the weekend. i got a commitment that you would do nothing until you had studied it thoroughly, especially adams county -- mr. katzenbach: i think adams -- president johnson: and you would call them before you did anything. so, i called him and told him the same thing. i do not know if you can get out of it. maybe he is right.
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it sounds to me, if i were there, it sounds to me, unless we have to reduce --produce something on the 18th, the 18th would be better than the eighth. i think of a yankee does walk in there, it makes people vote against his program. the constitutional amendment certainly does not hurt us and it would help is a little, i guess. if anything that comes from washington election, i tell you, that hurts you. i had roosevelt indoors me once and he said my old and trusted friend, and it defeated me. he thought he was helping me and i thought he was helping me, but they use it against me. mr. katzenbach: it is awful hard to leave louisiana out -- president johnson: that's right, but maybe we ought to secure this pretty easy and go into alabama. study it and was talk about it monday or tuesday. how many you plan to go in? 2,
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3, 4? mr. katzenbach: the max would before. host: here is lbj working behind the scenes to get legislation passed. give us commentary. mr. germany: he made a friend in mississippi, paul johnson, the governor. they have constitutional amendments, the state of mississippi voting on it, which they will pass overwhelmingly, which is an attempt to say, we are taking care of the voting problem. we do not need the federal government. johnson is trying to give his new friend -- as friendly as you can be with an arch segregationist from mississippi -- he was to give him some cushions. he does not want to send registrars and these counties. this is johnson trying to build something into this. the deeper story is the county he is talking about, in the next year, there will be ku klux klan members who will kidnap and
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murder a black man specifically to try to get martin luther king jr. to come down to natchez so they can try to assassinate king. mississippi is next ordinary violent place. that is something you should understand. what is going on here has a very deep and violent history. host: mr. califano? mr. califano: i think all of that is correct. also, notice a couple of other things. one, that is why the president said to nick and to me, try and get registrars, federal registrars and these counties for voting that come from the state, that come from the state. so, he was very conscious of not sending yankees in to any of the states, because he did not want the southern congressmen and
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others to have that argument. you are sending yankees down from the south. by a large most of the federal registrars came from the states they were going to work in indy county voting areas and also eastland, the chairman of the senate judiciary committee violent segregationists. he was very important to lyndon johnson and johnson's desire to get judges through the senate that would be basically comfortable with affirmative action and civil rights and all of the things that were happening. that mention of eastland is just a little signal, a reminder to nick katzenbach, who was well aware of it as well, we have
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beaten eastland's now a couple of times badly, but he did not have to say it. they understood it. they were going to need him to at least lay back on the judges. host: mr. germany, do you want to add to that? mr. germany: there is a quick anecdote. nick katzenbach gave testimony to congressional committees. his staff put together an elaborate list. eastland called katzenbach, and he said nick, you know too much about the state of mississippi and then he hung up the phone. host: another conversation with john stennis of mississippi. the recording starts with the president, his earlier conversations as you heard from our gentleman with the attorney general and -- the attorney general mississippi. here's that phone call. president johnson: he said, why don't we just make it deeper and
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have them come out and he said it will stare it up, so i told the attorney general to see if he could not study carefully over the weekend and minimize what his problem was and i will have him call both you and the governor. senator stennis: that is mighty fine. governor -- he has really gotten out front. president johnson: i know he has. the attorney general told me. the constitutional amendment would be helpful. we want to help, not to hurt him. we think that would be fine. i have been in the same shape for 20 years. i know something about this. the attorney general is going to look at it over the weekend. senator stennis: that is mighty fine. i deeply appreciate that.
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president johnson: keep one for yourself. senator stennis: thank you. president johnson: he is going to get mighty cocky when he gets on a roll up there, isn't he? when he put me up on the roof -- [indiscernible] senator stennis: he is mighty proud. he is grateful, and i am too. president johnson: that's right. i think he runs better up here than he does in the senate. [laughter] you tell him that. senator stennis: i will. host: give us a sense of the underlying politics of what is going on with this phone call. mr. germany: johnson needs everybody. stennis is a major figure in terms of military things foreign policy things, and maybe he is not going to support
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certain things but that friendship can be used in a lot of different ways. and i think he just likes to talk to people. you can hear that laugh. at that is a great laugh. he loves to tell people he loves them. this is a strange thing. he will be in a bitter political struggle with somebody and then at the end of the conversation i love you. not the bud light, i love you, man kind of thing. host: do you agree with that? mr. califano: i agree and i would note, john stennis was a critical ally of lyndon johnson on the vietnam war. he needed him for that. as long as he was in the senate. i think that was another very important reason why he was very friendly with the senate and i
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think kent is right. he genuinely love -- he loved to these guys. he knew so much about their personal lives. he had had dinner with them. he loved politics. he loved -- you can call it schmoozing, but he loved talking to them and he truly understood. i know what it is like. i have run for office. i have run in exactly the same situations you guys are in now. and that was a terrific thing. it was with republicans, it was with democrats. he was terrific about that. and when dirksen was in the hospital and president johnson was in germany, dirksen was in the hospital with a very bad flu, and he called me about other things, and he told me, i
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want you to call everett dirksen and let him know i asked about him and i need him back. i need that voice on the television. i can't hear it in the senate anymore, but tell him i want to hear him on television. he loved that. that was his world. that was his family. host: we only have a couple minutes left. i want to ask you both -- the president said the voting rights act would be his greatest legacy. i want to get your thoughts on if he was right. mr. califano: i think absolutely history bears it out. it bears it out with all of the african-americans elected all over the country.
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in terms of the core element of the political system in this country. it also changed the democratic party. think about this. the reality today is democrats cannot win the white house unless they get 90% of the negro vote, what johnson would've called the african-american vote today. they are a critical part of the democratic party. and i think we are living in lyndon johnson's america in health, education, programs, the corporate -- corporation of public -- public broadcasting. but that vote is what makes the democratic party what it is today. and it is a critical thing. and you will notice even as you look at the presidential races that are now going on a similar thing happening vis-à-vis the latinos in our country.
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there is a great consciousness in the republican and democratic party of the importance of that group of immigrants in terms of winning presidential elections and more and more senate elections and how selections and elections at the state and local level. that law has changed america. host: mr. germany, your thoughts as well? mr. germany: the voting rights act pushes the energy forward that sustains the great society. lyndon johnson died in 1973. the things that get set in motion in 1964 1963 to 1969, they will be sustained because their people after him. they are going to be voting to sustain what he put in place. much of the great society gets whittled down but the core of it
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is essentially still in tact and impacts everybody on a daily basis. host: you heard from to guess. kent germany is the editor of the linking be johnson project at the university of virginia. joining us for this discussion isj oe joe califano who worked with the present. both of you gentlemen, thank you very much. now a lokok back to august 6 1965. we go to the u.s. capitol to hear president johnson speak in the rotunda. we will see him sign the voting rights act in 1965.


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