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Civil rights movement

The American Promise

On March 15, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson, gave a special address to a joint session of the United States Congress. 

"Our fathers believed that if this [nation’s] noble view of the rights of man was to flourish, it must be rooted in democracy. The most basic right of all was the right to choose your own leaders. The history of this country, in all measure, is the history of the expansion of that right of all of our people.

Yet the harsh fact is that in many places in this country men and women are kept from voting simply because they are Negroes.

Every device of which human integrity is capable has been used to deny this right. The Negro citizen may go to register only to be told that the day is wrong, or the hour is late, or the official in charge is absent. And if he persists, and if he manages to present himself to the registrar, he may be disqualified because he did not spell out his middle name or because he abbreviated a word on the application.

And if he manages to fill out an application he is given a test. The registrar is the sole judge of whether he passes this test. He may be asked to recite the entire Constitution or explain the most complex provisions of State law. And even a college degree cannot be used to prove that he can read or write.

For the fact is that the only way to pass these barriers is to show a white skin.

The Constitution says that no person shall be kept from voting because of his race or color. We have all sworn an oath before God to support and to defend the Constitution. We must now act in obedience to that oath."