Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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Contents

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

Although I cannot possibly thank everyone who helped me with this book, a number of people deserve special mention. First, I thank those colleagues who listened to or read earlier versions of this manuscript, especially Davis Houck, Moya Ball, Vanessa Beasley, and Steve Goldzwig. Second, I also thank the archivists and organizations that ...

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Lyndon B. Johnson’s Special Message to the Congress. The American Promise: March 15, 1965

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pp. 1-12

Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Members of the Congress: 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. At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to ...

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Introduction

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pp. 13-22

Experts in history, politics, and law often argue about how to rank Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency, offering different summary judgments of his peculiar combination of skills and deficiencies in the areas of congressional leadership, foreign policy management, political vision, domestic governance, and administrative ability. But few, ...

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Chapter One. America's Voting rights Problem

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pp. 23-46

Nearly eight minutes into the delivery of his “We Shall Overcome” speech, Lyndon Johnson claimed that the history of the United States is by and large the history of the expansion of the right to vote “to all of our people.” LBJ’s idealistic statement suggested that the current of history was on his side, but it also simplified the contested history of ...

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Chapter Two. Battling for the Ballot

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pp. 47-71

Although Lyndon Johnson was proud of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he recognized the law’s limitations and believed that only a measure guaranteeing equal access to the ballot box would fully undermine the Southern structures of racial discrimination. Believing in the primacy of the right to vote, Johnson called it “the basic right without which ...

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Chapter Three. Plotting to Secure the Franchise

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pp. 72-85

As a legislative leader, Lyndon Johnson possessed an acute concern with the future: He reflected on the persistence of political problems, thought through the long-term implications of policy proposals, and sought to predict how history would view his actions. But as a rhetorical leader, LBJ often seemed unable to work out the long-term consequences of ...

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Chapter Four. Planning the Address

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pp. 86-100

Given the energy invested in finalizing the voting rights bill, the White House devoted relatively little time to President Johnson’s finest public speech. To be sure, LBJ and his aides were attuned to the way that presidential messages and silences would shape the president’s public image, the legislative process, and the public exigency...

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Chapter Five. "We Shall Overcome"

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pp. 101-132

Much more than an effective compendium of President Johnson’s ideas on voting rights fitted to his manner of speaking, the “We Shall Overcome” speech effectively leveraged and transcended the exigencies of the moment to advance a compelling argument for strong, federal voting rights legislation. Along the way, LBJ also reaffirmed the nation’s ...

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Chapter Six. Praise and Rebuke

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pp. 133-141

Lyndon Johnson’s voting rights address received widespread attention. A national audience of seventy million watched the speech on television. Scores of national and local newspapers and magazines reprinted either full-text or abridged versions of the message. Upon the demand of their readers, some African American newspapers, including ...

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Conclusion

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pp. 142-150

Acclaim for President Johnson’s “We Shall Overcome” speech has persisted, especially as the fortieth anniversary of its utterance approached. The grand opening festivities for Jazz at Lincoln Center’s new facility in 2004 included a series of live performances titled “Let Freedom Swing: A Celebration of Human Rights and Social Justice,” ...

Notes

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pp. 151-166

Bibliography

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pp. 167-172

Index

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pp. 173-180