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Chapter 3  

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy  

Part of his Inaugural Speech, January 20, 1961


To those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request, that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental destruction.” During Eisenhower’s last term a covert military operation was planned by the C.I.A. called the Bay of Pigs Invasion (manned by Cuban exiles), which was due to start just after Kennedy took office, so he had to go along with it, like it or not. Its intent was the overthrow of the Castro government in Cuba. It was poorly planned, and when the invasion started to go south Kennedy refused to send in the U.S. Air Force or re-enforcements. In public he took full responsibility for the failed operation, but in private he burned with anger toward his Joint Chiefs “sons of bitches” and “those C.I.A. bastards” and he threatened to “shatter the C.I.A. into a thousand pieces and scatter [them] to the winds.” He went on to fire the head of the C.I.A. Allen Dulles and two other top Intel officials, Richard Bissel and Charles Cabell. He also placed all C.I.A. overseas personnel under State Department control. Almost in the shadow of Roosevelt, a real leader appeared to be at the Helm of the Ship of State.


June 1961


Kennedy Meets Khrushchev


President Kennedy traveled to Vienna for his first summit conference with Nikita Khrushchev. Khrushchev immediately went at Kennedy for the belligerent and imperialistic manner the United States had been treating the Soviet Union (which was true, as we’ve seen, old Nikita had a bone to pick with our new President). The Soviet Union had been struggling to climb out of the shattered and devastated state World War II had left them in, and Khrushchev was struggling to jump-start their collective farming system (which he was heavily involved in, in a hands-on way, as well as de-Stalinizing the Soviet Union, which included shutting down all the Gulags, freeing 13 million innocent Soviet citizens from them). The extra financial burden of sinking millions of rubles into a U.S.-initiated nuclear arms race must have really galled Nikita Khrushchev, who had already once tried to get Eisenhower to end the Cold War, and cooperate on space exploration (in 1957). He said to the young American President “We in the U.S.S.R. feel the revolutionary process should have a right to exist.” This is something Roosevelt and Henry Wallace had been saying all along. Khrushchev tried to explain that it was the prospect of West Germany getting control of U.S. nukes deployed so close to the Soviet Union that was their major concern. Khrushchev, sort of talking to Kennedy through the back door, told an American journalist, “We have much longer history with Germany. We have seen how quickly governments in Germany can change, and how easy it is for Germany to become an instrument of [destruction]…you like to think in the United States we have no public opinion. But don’t be so sure about this. We have a saying here, ‘Give a German a gun, sooner or later he will point it at Russians.’ We could crush Germany in a few minutes. But we fear the ability of Germany to commit the United States to start the atomic war. How many times do you have to be burnt before you respect fire?” Just before leaving Khrushchev’s presence, Jack Kennedy said with that marvelous sense of humor he had, “I ah see it’s going to be a very cold winter.” Nikita Khrushchev perfectly explained the age-old fear the Russians have for Germany, not quite properly understood by Americans.


June 1961


Khrushchev obviously sensing John Kennedy was not holding out any olive branches to him or the Soviets, and as McNamara and Kennedy learned, there was a HUGE missile gap in favor of the U.S. The U.S. at this time had 25,000 nuclear weapons to the Soviets 2,500, and the U.S. had 1,500 heavy bombers (B-47 Hustlers and B-52 Stratofortress’s) to the Soviet’s paltry 192. The U.S. had 45 ICBMs to the Soviets 4 serviceable ICBMs (as of 1961 shortly after Kennedy took office. That went up a little bit later to 15 Soviet ICBMs and 400 for the U.S.). So in June of 1961 Khrushchev resumed nuclear testing by setting off a 30 megaton bomb, followed soon afterwards by a 57 megaton monster that was deliverable by their Tu-95 Bear long-range bomber. Kennedy’s remark when he heard was “F@#&ed again!” But Kennedy had missed Khrushchev’s true intentions all along and had nudged Khrushchev and the Soviets back toward pursuing the arms race by the chilly Vienna summit and our clandestine black ops by the C.I.A. against Castro and the Cubans. This, coupled to some very real military exercises the U.S. carried out in the Caribbean involving almost 100 ships, hundreds of aircraft and 40,000 troops, and another exercise code named “Ortsac” which is “Castro” spelled backwards. Cuba was one of the Soviet Union’s model Communist client states, and Castro felt another invasion was immanent, a big one. So Khrushchev, apparently acting on all this activity, coupled to the fact that the U.S. had a number of Jupiter Continental Ballistic Missiles based right near the Soviet border in Turkey, decided to secretly set up about 100 Medium Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBMs) in Cuba, with the ability to deliver nuclear warheads on all U.S. major cities from Chicago to the East Coast.


October 14, 1962,

The Cuban Missile Crisis


First, let us understand why Nikita Khrushchev (in his own words) and the Soviet Politburo (this decision was reached by consensus) put Continental Ballistic Missiles (MRBMs) in Cuba. Khrushchev said in his memoirs “Everyone [in the Politburo] agreed that America would not leave Cuba alone unless we did something. We had an obligation to do everything in our power to protect Cuba’s existence as a Socialist country and as a working example to the other countries of Latin America. It was clear to me that we might very well lose Cuba if we didn’t take some decisive steps in her defense [based on the Bay of Pigs attempted Invasion of Cuba]…We had to think up some way of confronting America with more than words. We had to establish a tangible and effective deterrent to American interference in the Caribbean. But what exactly? The logical answer was missiles. The United States had already surrounded the Soviet Union with its own bomber bases and missiles. We knew American missiles were aimed against us in Turkey and Italy, to say nothing of West Germany. Our vital industrial centers were directly threatened by planes armed with atomic bombs and guided missiles tipped with nuclear warheads. As Chairman of the Council of Ministers, I found myself in the difficult position of having to decide on a course of action which would answer the American threat but which would also avoid war. Any fool can start a war, and once he’s done so, even the wisest of men are helpless to stop it---especially if it’s a nuclear war.” [“KHRUSCHCHEV REMEMBERS” p. 493, par. 1-2, selected parts] “In addition to protecting Cuba, our missiles would have equalized what the West likes to call “the balance of power.” The Americans had surrounded our country with military bases and threatened us with nuclear weapons [we’ve seen the historic evidence of this from Presidents Truman through Eisenhower, this is no idle statement by Nikita Khrushchev], and now they would learn just what it feels like to have enemy missiles pointed at you: we’d be doing nothing more than giving them a little of their own medicine. And it was high time America learned what it feels like to have her own land and her own people threatened. We Russians have suffered three wars over the last half century: World War I, the Civil War, and World War II. America has never had to fight a war on her own soil, at least not in the past fifty years. She’s sent troops abroad to fight in the two World Wars---and made a fortune as a result. America has shed a few drops of her own blood while making billions by bleeding the rest of the world dry.” [ibid. p. 494, par 1, sel. parts] “I want to make one thing absolutely clear: when we put our ballistic missiles [MRBMs] in Cuba, we had no desire to start a war. On the contrary, our principal aim was only to deter America from starting a war. We were well aware that a war which started over Cuba would quickly expand into a world war. Any idiot could have started a war between America and Cuba. Cuba was eleven thousand kilometers away from us. Only a fool would think that we wanted to invade the American continent from Cuba. Our goal was precisely the opposite: we wanted to keep the Americans from invading Cuba, and to that end, we wanted to make them think twice by confronting them with our missiles. This goal we achieved---but not without undergoing a period of perilous tension.” [ibid. pp. 495-496, emphasis mine throughout quotes]


On October 14, 1962 a U2 spy plane photographed those MRBMs on the Island of Cuba. It wasn’t the intention of the Soviets or Khrushchev to create a military confrontation, but merely to protect Cuba from invasion, lessen the huge gap in U.S. superiority in nuclear strike capability, and as Nikita said, “Giving the Americans a bit of their own medicine.” It was Khrushchev’s full intention to reveal the presence of the missiles less than three weeks later, on November 7th, 1962, as a surprise announcement at the 45th Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution Party Conference in Moscow. But by keeping the presence of the missiles a secret so we could discover them by accident backfired and created a deadly situation, a nuclear Mexican-Standoff. The movie Dr. Strangelove worked what Khrushchev had done into their movie script quite accurately: “The whole point of the Doomsday Machine is lost, IF YOU KEEP IT A SECRET!!! Why didn’t you tell die Veld, Hey!?!” (Dr. Strangelove asked the ambassador of Russia. The ambassador answers back) “It was to be announced at the Party Congress on Monday, as you know, the Premier loves surprises.” I love that movie, based literally on so much of what was going on between the U.S. and Soviet Union. On October 22nd Kennedy decided on a naval blockade and inspection of all Soviet ships traveling to Cuba. He called it a “Quarantine” in an attempt to lessen the incendiary rhetoric flying around.


October 26, 1962


On October 26, 1962 250,000 American troops were assembling, 2,000 bombing sorties were being mapped out (probably with General Curtis “Demon” LeMay chafing at the bit, cigar clenched in his teeth), and U.S. fighter planes were buzzing the Cuban mainland at treetop level. The world was holding its collective breath. Both Kennedy and Khrushchev feared they were losing control of their respective military machines. Then, amazingly (it stunned Robert McNamara when he read it), Nikita Khrushchev sent President Kennedy an urgent letter which simply asked for a promise to not invade Cuba. He said, “It would not be in our power to stop it. War ends when it has rolled through cities and villages, everywhere sowing death and destruction.” Khrushchev, who by the way, had witnessed what he had just said along the whole ‘Eastern Front’ between the German army and Soviet Red Army, as well as in the Battle of Stalingrad, which he was a part of, spoke those words understanding their full meaning. Khrushchev said to his generals, “Now what good would it have done me in the end, last hour of my life, to know the whole of our great nation and the United States were in complete ruin and the national honor of the Soviet Union was intact?”


October 27, 1962

The Most Dangerous Moment In History


As a group of Soviet ships were getting close to the Quarantine line, about a hundred miles back from there the U.S.S. Randolph Carrier Group had isolated one of four Soviet submarines that had been assigned to guard the Soviet surface ships. The Randolph Carrier Group started dropping ‘practice’ depth-charges on this cornered submarine. Then they dropped a larger one, probably a real one on this hapless boat. Power went out on the sub, lights went out, emergency lighting came on, ventilation ceased, carbon dioxide levels rose (I was on a similar submarine, a WWII Fleet sub in 1968-69, so I know what these guys were going through). Unknown to the Randolph Carrier Group, these four submarines had been armed with nuclear tipped torpedoes, probably quite similar to our Mark 45 Astor 11-kiloton babies. Commander Valantin Sivitsky, in a panic, ordered the nuclear torpedo readied for firing. In a last-minute consultation with the other two officers on the boat, the political officer, [Zampolitei] Vasili Arkhipov calmed down the nervous captain and convinced him not to fire the nuke fish, thus more than likely preventing a nuclear World War III. Also, in a letter to the editor section of the American Legion, where they were asking veterans of the Cuban Missile Crisis to comment on any of their experiences, a submarine sailor who had been onboard the U.S.S. George Washington said that for two hours (maybe the same time we had this sub cornered? scary thought), the George Washington had all 16 of her Polaris missiles “spun up,” ready for instant launch. As if this was not enough, a U2 spy plane was shot down over Cuba, killing its pilot. Khrushchev had not authorized this. The Joint Chiefs, with more than likely Curtis LeMay in the lead, wanted to take out all the Cuban anti-aircraft firing sites and missiles. Kennedy say “No.” [I highly recommend the movie about this, titled “Thirteen Days” starring Kevin Costner. It gives you the entire historic scenario.]


October 28, 1962


On October 28th, 1962 the Soviets announced they would withdraw the missiles. Interestingly, during the whole crisis Soviet missiles (unlike ours) were never fueled, and the Red Army reserves were never called up. Nikita Khrushchev was a cool customer. Again, I close this episode with Khrushchev’s words, “The two most powerful nations of the world had been squared off against one another, each with its finger on the button. You’d have thought that war was inevitable. But both sides showed that if the desire to avoid war is strong enough, even the most pressing dispute can be solved by compromise. And a compromise over Cuba was indeed found. The episode ended in a triumph of common sense. I’ll always remember the late President with deep respect because, in the final analysis, he showed himself to be sober-minded and determined to avoid war. He didn’t let himself become frightened, nor did he become reckless. He didn’t overestimate America’s might, and he left himself a way out of the crisis. He showed real wisdom and statesmanship when he turned his back on right-wing forces in the United States who were trying to goad him into taking military action against Cuba.” [“KHRUSHCHEV REMEMBERS” p. 500, par. 4, sel. parts]


Khrushchev’s Letter


Sadly, Khrushchev would be legally forced out of power by the combined Politburo in 1964, due to major mistakes he was making with his personal governing of the collective farms, which threatened to bring a famine to the Soviet Union if they didn’t act. His removal had absolutely nothing to do with the Cuban Missile Crisis, as many in the West have wrongly believed [read Roy and Zhores A. Medvedev’s book KHRUSCHEV: THE YEARS IN POWER”]. But before this occurred, probably right after the crisis, Khrushchev sent President Kennedy a long letter. He started out by saying “Evil have brought on good…” He then went on to make a number of bold and stunning proposals for eliminating “everything in our relations capable of generating a new crisis.” He suggested a non-aggression treaty between N.A.T.O. and the Warsaw Pact nations. “Why not” he said, disband all military blocs, cease testing all nuclear weapons, in the atmosphere, in outerspace, underwater, and also underground.” Also included were proposed solutions to the conflicts over Germany and China. Initially Jack Kennedy’s response was cool, but both men had, underneath it all, been traveling in the same direction. Khrushchev had been in the most destructive ravages of war on the Russian Eastern Front and in Stalingrad. He was in the grips of trying to modernize the collective farm system and bring some degree of democratic freedoms into them as well. Although, how to accomplish this, sadly, was beyond him, he wasn’t a trained agronomist. He really didn’t want the Soviet Union to be in a Cold War with the United States, and neither was that the desire of Jack Kennedy, underneath it all. They had inherited the Cold War, but neither leader wanted it, and they were trying their hardest to figure out how to get rid of it. Kennedy started moving in the direction Khrushchev’s letter pointed. Kennedy in his National Security Action Memorandum 263 started to take action to pull the U.S. out of Vietnam. He said to his close aid Kenny O’Donnell “In 1965 I’ll become one of the most unpopular Presidents in history. I’ll be damned everywhere as a Communist appeaser, but I don’t care. If I try to pull out completely now [October 1963] from Vietnam, we’d have another Joe McCarthy Red Scare on our hands. But ah I can do it after I’m re-elected. So, ah, we’d better make damn sure I am re-elected.”

JFK-Nikita Khrushchev Secret Letters


On Wednesday, October 24, a report came in that a Soviet Submarine was about to be intercepted by U.S. helicopters with depth charges, unless by some miracle the two Soviet ships it was accompanying turned back from the U.S. “quarantine” line. The president feared he had lost all control of the situation and that nuclear war was imminent. Robert looked at his brother: “His hand went up to his face and covered his mouth. He opened and closed his fist. His face seemed drawn, his eyes pained, almost gray. We stared at each other across the table. For a few fleeting seconds, it was almost as though no one else was there and he was no longer the president. “Inexplicably, I thought of when he was ill and almost died; when he lost his child; when we learned that our oldest brother had been killed; of personal times of strain and hurt. The voices droned on…” The miracle occurred—through the enemy, Nikita Khrushchev. Khrushchev ordered the Soviet ships to stop dead in the water rather than challenge the U.S. quarantine. At that moment he saved John Kennedy and everyone else. What moved Khrushchev to his decision? The incident goes unmentioned in his memoirs, as does another, hidden chapter of events that may help to explain it—Nikita Khrushchev’s secret correspondence with John Kennedy. In July 1993, the U.S. State Department, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by a Canadian newspaper, declassified twenty-one secret letters between John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev. These private, confidential letters between the Cold War leaders, begun in September 1961 and continued for two years, will be examined here for the bright light they shed on a relationship critical to the world’s preservation.

Khrushchev had sent his first private letter to Kennedy on September 29, 1961, during the Berlin Crisis. Wrapped in a newspaper, it was brought to Kennedy’s press secretary Pierre Salinger at a New York hotel room by a Soviet “magazine editor” and KGB agent, Georgi Bolshakov, whom Khrushchev trusted to maintain silence. The secrecy was at least as much to avoid Soviet attention as American. As presidential aide Theodore Sorensen said three decades later, Khrushchev was “taking his risks, assuming that these letters were, as we believe, being kept secret from the (Soviet) military, from the foreign service, from top people in the Kremlin. He was taking some risk that if discovered, they would be very unhappy with him.” Khrushchev’s first letter was written from a retreat beside the Black Sea [Sochi?]. While the Berlin crisis was still not over, the Soviet premier began the correspondence with his enemy by meditating on the beauty of the sea and the threat of war. “Dear Mr. President,” he wrote, “At present I am on the shore of the Black Sea…This is indeed a wonderful place. As a former Naval officer you would surely appreciate the merits of these surroundings, the beauty of the sea and the grandeur of the Caucasian mountains. Under this bright southern sun it is even somehow hard to believe that there still exist problems in the world which, due to lack of solutions, cast a sinister shadow on peaceful life, on the future of millions of people.”

Kennedy had been stunned in Vienna by what he felt was Khrushchev’s hardness of heart toward a nuclear war and his unwillingness to compromise. Now as the threat of war over Berlin continued, Khrushchev expressed a regret about Vienna. He said he had “given much thought of late to the development of international events since our meeting in Vienna, and I have decided to approach you with this letter. The whole world hopefully expected that our meeting and a frank exchange of views would have a soothing effect, would turn relations between our countries into the correct channel and promote the adoption of decisions which would give the peoples confidence that at last peace on earth will be secured. To my regret—and I believe, to yours—this did not happen.”

However, Kennedy’s abiding hopes for peace, beneath the bellicose rhetoric that he and Khrushchev exchanged publicly, had somehow gotten through to his counterpart. Khrushchev continued with deepening respect: “I listened with great interest to the account which our journalists Adjubei and Kharlamov gave the meeting they had with you in Washington. They gave me many interesting details and I questioned them most thoroughly. You prepossessed them by your informality, modesty and frankness which are not to be found very often in men who occupy such a high position.” Again Khrushchev mentioned Vienna, this time as a backdrop to his decision to write such a letter: “My thoughts have more than once returned to our meetings in Vienna. I remember you emphasized that you did not want to proceed towards war and favored living in peace with our country while competing in the peaceful domain. And though subsequent events did not proceed in the way that could be desired, I thought it might be useful in a purely informal and personal way to approach you and share some of my ideas. If you do not agree with me you can consider that this letter did not exist while naturally I, for my part, will not use this correspondence in my public statements. After all only in confidential correspondence can you say what you think without a backward glance at the press, at the journalists.” “As you see,” he added apologetically, “I started out by describing the delights of the Black Sea coast, but then I nevertheless turned to politics. But that cannot be helped. They say that you can sometimes cast politics out through the door but it climbs back through the window, particularly when the windows are open.”

Khrushchev’s first letter to Kennedy was twenty-six pages long. It did deal passionately with politics, in particular Berlin (where the two leaders back away from war but never reached agreement) and the civil war in Loas (where they agreed to recognize a neutral government)…The communist emphasized their common ground with a biblical analogy. Khrushchev liked, he said, the comparison of their situation “with Noah’s Ark where both the ‘clean’ and the ‘unclean’ found sanctuary. But regardless of who lists himself with the ‘clean’ and who is considered ‘unclean,’ they are all equally interested in one thing and that is that the Ark should successfully continue its cruise. And we have no other alternative: either we should live in peace and cooperation so that the Ark maintains its buoyancy, or else it sinks.”

Kennedy responded privately to Khrushchev on October 16, 1961, from his own place of retreat beside the ocean, Hyannis Port. He began in a similar vein: “My family has had a home here overlooking the Atlantic for many years. My father and brothers own homes near my own, and my children always have a large group of cousins for company. So this is an ideal place for me to spend my weekends during the summer and fall, to relax, to think, to devote my time to major tasks instead of constant appointments, telephone calls and details. Thus, I know how you must feel about the spot on the Black Sea from which your letter was written, for I value my own opportunities to get a clearer and quieter perspective away from the din of Washington.” He thanked Khrushchev for initiating the correspondence and agreed to keep it quiet: “Certainly you are correct in emphasizing that this correspondence must be kept wholly private, not to be hinted at in public statements, much less disclosed to the press.” Their private letters should supplement public statements “and give us each a chance to address the other in frank, realistic and fundamental terms. Neither of us is going to convert the other to a new social, economic or political point of view. Neither of us will be induced by a letter to desert or subvert his own cause. So these letters can be free from the polemics of the ‘cold war’ debate.” Kennedy agreed wholeheartedly with Khrushchev’s biblical image: “I like very much your analogy of Noah’s Ark, with both the ‘clean’ and the ‘unclean’ determined that it stays afloat. Whatever our differences, our collaboration to keep the peace is as urgent—if not more urgent—than our collaboration to win the last world war.” [Soviet-Allied collaboration during World War II he was referring to] After a year of private letters that included more than a little “cold war” debate, Kennedy and Khrushchev had by October 1962 not resolved their most dangerous differences. The missile crisis was proof of that. Their mutual respect had given way to mistrust, counter-challenges, and steps toward the war they both abhorred. In the weeks leading up to the crisis, Khrushchev felt betrayed by Kennedy’s contingency plans for another Cuba invasion, [which the CIA was always making clandestine plans and organizing Black/Ops against Cuba, and carrying some of them out, which the Kennedy’s were always trying to snuff out before they ignited into all out war], whereas Kennedy thought Khrushchev was betraying him by sneaking nuclear missiles into Cuba. Both were again acting out Cold War beliefs that threatened everyone on earth. Nevertheless, as they faced each other and issued potentially world-destructive orders, it was still thanks to the Vienna meeting and their secret letters that each knew the other was a human being he could respect. They also knew they had once agreed warmly that the world was a Noah’s Ark, where both the “clean” and the “unclean” had to keep it afloat. It was just such a world, where “clean” and “unclean” were together under a nuclear threat, that Khrushchev stopped his ships dead in the water and the Ark remained afloat.” On Friday night, October 26, Kennedy received a hopeful letter from Khrushchev in which the Soviet premier agreed to withdraw his missiles.” [that day was my birthday, I was 16 years old.] [page 22, par. 7, and pages 23-25 sel. parts, JFK and the UNSPEAKABLE, WHY HE DIED AND WHY IT MATTERS” by James W. Douglass, Touchstone, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. © 2008 by James W. Douglass]

June 10, 1963

Kennedy’s Commencement Address At The American University

On June 10, 1963, President Kennedy introduced his subject to the graduating class at American University as “the most important topic on earth: world peace. What kind of peace do I mean?” he asked, “What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children—not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women—not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.”…“No nation in the history of battle ever suffered more than the Soviet Union suffered in the course of the Second World War,” he said. “At least 20 million lost their lives. Countless millions of homes and farms were burned or sacked. A third of the nation’s territory, including nearly two thirds of its industrial base, was turned into a wasteland—a loss equivalent to the devastation of this country east of Chicago.”…“All we have built, all we have worked for, would be destroyed [in a nuclear war with each other] in the first 24 hours.”…“In short, both the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its allies, have a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race.”…“If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.”…“For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”…“Our primary long-range interest” : “general and complete disarmament—designed to take place by stages, permitting parallel political developments to build the new institutions of peace which would take the place of arms.” In the fourth and final section of his plea for self-examination, JFK appealed to his American audience to examine the equality of life within our own borders: “Let us examine our attitude toward peace and freedom here at home…In too many of our cities today, the peace is not secure because freedom is incomplete.” He would say more on this subject the following night in his ground-breaking civil rights speech…That night in a televised address to the nation, Kennedy described the suffering of black Americans under racism with a strength of feeling that recalled his compassion the day before for the Russian people in World War II: “The Negro baby born in America today, regardless of the section of the Nation in which he is born, has about one-half as much chance of completing high school as a white baby born in the same place on the same day, one-third as much chance as completing college, one-third as much chance of becoming a professional man, twice as much chance of becoming unemployed, about one-seventh as much chance of earning $10,000 a year [which used to be a good wage], a life expectation which is 7 years shorter, and the prospects of earning only half as much…We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scripture and is as clear as the American Constitution.” In his American University address, after Kennedy identified “peace and freedom here at home” as a crucial dimension of world peace, he went on to identify peace itself as a fundamental human right: “And is not peace, in the last analysis, basically a matter of human rights—the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation—the right to breathe air as nature provided it—the right of future generations to a healthy existence?”…“Confident and unafraid, we labor on—not toward a strategy of annihilation but toward a strategy of peace.” [Kennedy’s address, quoted out of JFK: THE UNSPEAKABLE, p. 36, par. 1-2, pp. 43-45, sel. par. emphasis mine]

Amazing Soviet Reaction To Kennedy’s Speech Which The American Press Ignored

John Kennedy’s greatest statement of his turn toward peace was his American University address. In an ironic turn of events, the Soviet Union became its principal venue. JFK’s identification with the Russian people’s suffering penetrated their government’s defenses far more effectively than any missile could have. Sorensen described the speech’s impact on the other side of the Cold War: “The full text of the speech was published in the Soviet press. Still more striking was the fact that it was heard as well as read throughout the U.S.S.R. After fifteen years of almost uninterrupted jamming of Western broadcasts, by means of a network of over three thousand transmitters at an annual cost of several hundred million dollars, the Soviets jammed only one paragraph of the speech relayed by the Voice of America in Russian (that dealing with their ‘baseless’ claims of U.S. aims)—then did not jam any of it upon rebroadcast—and then suddenly stopped jamming all Western broadcasts, including even Russian-language newscasts on foreign affairs.” [JFK: THE UNSPEAKABLE p. 45, par. 6-7] Nikita Khrushchev was deeply moved. He told test-ban negotiator Averell Harriman that Kennedy had given “the greatest speech by any American President since Roosevelt.”

After the American University address, John Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev began to act like competitors in peace. They were both turning. However, Kennedy’s rejection of Cold War politics was considered treasonous by forces in his own government. In that context, which Kennedy knew well, the American University address was a profile in courage with lethal consequences. President Kennedy’s June 10, 1963, call for an end to the Cold War, five and one-half months before his assassination, anticipates Dr. King’s courage in his April 4, 1967, Riverside Church address calling for an end to the Vietnam War, exactly one year before his assassination. Each of those transforming speeches was a prophetic statement provoking the reward a prophet traditionally receives. John Kennedy’s American University address was to his death in Dallas as Martin Luther King’s Riverside Church address was to his death in Memphis.” [ibid, p. 46, par. 3]

In June 1963 at the Commencement Address at the American University, John F. Kennedy encouraged his listeners to think of the Soviet people in human terms, and called for an end to the Cold War. (He was finally singing Khrushchev’s tune, which Eisenhower was never willing to do.) John Kennedy said this at the Commencement Address, “What kind of a peace do I mean, and what kind of a peace do we seek? Not a Pax-Americana, enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Let us re-examine our attitude towards the Soviet Union. It is sad to realize the extent of the gulf between us. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet…We are all mortal.”

September 1963: The U.S. Senate passes 80 to 19 Kennedy’s Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Kennedy said of the treaty, “For this treaty is for all of us. It is particularly for our children and our grandchildren, and they have no lobby here in Washington. According to the ancient Chinese proverb, a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. My fellow Americans, let us take that first step.” Now, as Khrushchev had called for before with Eisenhower, Kennedy called for replacing the Space Race with joint U.S.-Soviet exploration of space and the moon. Khrushchev had been calling for this and an end to the Cold War since 1957. Finally with Jack Kennedy he had a willing participant. But it wasn’t to be. Instead, after John Kennedy’s assassination, that PAX AMERICANA would be forced down the world’s throat, in Latin America, Southeast Asia (especially Vietnam), and finally from September 11, 2001, the Middle East and Afghanistan (for that last one, read Spencer Ackerman’s Reign Of Terror).

Kennedy’s Secret Efforts At Reconciliation With Cuba

For John Kennedy’s fifth Bay of Pigs was in essence a return to the Bay of Pigs. His fifth alienation from his CIA and military advisors came from his risk-filled turn toward dialogue with an even more irreconcilable enemy than Nikita Khrushchev: Fidel Castro. Based on recently declassified Kennedy administration documents, National Security Archive analyst Peter Kornbluh [who wrote a book about Che’ Guevara, if you want to know something, you ask this guy, has his hands on all the records.] has concluded in a little-noted article that “in 1963 John Kennedy began pursuing an alternative script on Cuba: a secret dialogue toward an actual rapprochement with Castro.” The documents Kornbluh discovered have confirmed and filled in a story that Cuban and American diplomats have been telling for decades.” [JFK, ibid, p.56, par. 3-4] “Kennedy wrote Khrushchev secretly on April 11, 1963, [in another one of those 22 secret letters] explaining to his Cold War counterpart a policy chosen partly on Khrushchev’s behalf that was already beginning to cost Kennedy dearly. The U.S. president said he was “aware of the tensions unduly created by recent private attacks on your ships in Caribbean waters; and we are taking action to halt those attacks which are in violation to our laws, and obtaining the support of the British Government in preventing the use of their Caribbean islands for this purpose. The efforts of this Government to reduce tensions have, as you know, aroused much criticism from certain quarters in this country. But neither such criticism nor the opposition of any sector of our society will be allowed to determine the policies of this Government. In particular, I have neither the intention nor the desire to invade Cuba…” [ibid, p. 59, par. 5, p. 60, par. 1] “On September 20 President Kennedy went to New York to address the UN General Assembly. He met with Ambassador Stevenson and gave his approval for William Attwood “to make discreet contact” with Dr. Carlos Lechuga, Cuba’s UN ambassador, in order to explore a possible dialogue with Castro. At this point Adlai Stevenson said prophetically why he thought such a Kennedy-Castro dialogue would never be allowed to happen. “Unfortunately,” he told Attwood, “the CIA is still in charge of Cuba.” Nevertheless, President Kennedy, while knowing the danger of his once again heading upstream against the CIA, had decided the time was right to begin talking with Castro.” [ibid. p. 70, par. 6] Breaking into the middle of a John F. Kennedy quote “I believe that there is no country in the world, including all the African regions, including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country’s policies during the Batista regime…I approved the proclamation which Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption. I will go even further: to some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins. In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries. That is perfectly clear.” [ibid. p. 73, par. 3] That quote, as we’ll see in the next section of America-ModernRomans, applies to how the U.S. treated all of Latin America as well. “Thus the stage was being set, four days before Dallas [18 November 1963], for the beginning of a Kennedy-Castro dialogue on U.S.-Cuban relations. Both Kennedy and Castro, with the encouragement and support of Nikita Khrushchev, were listening to the high notes of a song of peace their governments were still unable to hear. As carefully as porcupines making love, they were preparing to engage in a dialogue on the strange proposition that the United States and Cuba might actually be able to live together in peace.” [ibid. p. 85, par. 6 to p. 86, par. 1] “Like Khrushchev, Castro hoped to work with the U.S. president during his second four-year term to fulfill a vision of coexistence. He joked with Daniel that maybe he could help Kennedy’s campaign for reelection. He said with a broad, boyish grin, “If you see him again, you can tell him that I’m willing to declare Goldwater my friend if that will guarantee Kennedy’s reelection!” [ibid p. 89, par. 5] As this conversation continues between Fidel Castro and Jean Daniel, Kennedy’s secret go-between between him and Castro, it’s around 1:30pm Havana time zone on the 22nd of November 1963, “Just before 2:00pm, Castro and Daniel waited by the radio for more news. Rene Vallejo, Castro’s liaison for the Kennedy negotiations, stood by. He translated NBC reports coming in from Miami. Finally the words came through: President Kennedy was dead. Castro stood up, looked at Daniel, and said, “Everything is changed. Everything is going to change.” [JFK: THE UNSPEAKABLE, by James W. Douglass, p. 90, par. 2-3 and all the previous quotes here.]


Quote From The Sad Movie “JFK”


In September 1963 Kennedy planned for getting all U.S. personnel out of Vietnam by the end of 1965. This plan was one of the strongest, most important papers issued from the Kennedy White House, his National Security Action Memo number 263 ordered home the first 1,000 troops for Christmas…But why? Why was JFK killed? In 1961, right after the Bay of Pigs [fiasco] National Security Action Memos 55, 56, 57…basically in them Kennedy instructed General Lemnitzer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, that from here on forward the Joint Chiefs of Staff would be wholly responsible for all covert paramilitary action in peace-time. This basically ended the reign of the C.I.A., splintered it, as JFK promised he would, into a thousand pieces. And now he was ordering the military to help him do it. This was unprecedented…the shockwaves this sent along the corridors in Washington, this of course with the firing of Allen Dulles, Richard Bissel and General Charles Cabell, all the sacred cows in Intel since World War II. They got some very upset people here. Kennedy’s directives were never really implemented because of bureaucratic resistance…Remember the budget cuts that Kennedy called for in March of 1963, nearly 52 military installations in 25 States, 21 overseas bases…The organizing principle of any society is for war. The authority of the State over its people resides in its war-powers. And Kennedy wanted to end the Cold War in his second term. He wanted to call off the Moon Race in cooperation with the Soviets. He signed a treaty with the Soviets to ban nuclear testing. He refused to invade Cuba in 1962 [during and after the Cuban Missile Crisis], and he set out to withdraw from Vietnam. All of that ended on the 22nd of November 1963. [On the] 26th November [one] day after they buried Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson signs National Security Action Memo 273, which essentially reverses Kennedy’s new withdrawal [from Vietnam] policy and gives a green light to covert action against North Vietnam, which provoked the Tonkin Gulf incident. In that document lay the Vietnam War.” [quote from the Oliver Stone movie “JFK”] “Kennedy seemed to be a man who was too far ahead of his time, and was killed for it” said Oliver Stone. And let’s not forget that Henry A. Wallace was also a man ahead of his time, and he got politically killed for it. Kennedy, Khrushchev and Henry Wallace, three great leaders, oh, and let’s not forget Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the fourth great leader here.

Sergei Khrushchev’s Letter

But there was much that President Kennedy and my father did not succeed in seeing through to the end. I am convinced that if history had allowed them another six years, they would have brought the cold war to a close before the end of the 1960’s. I say this with good reason, because in 1963 my father made an official announcement to a session of the U.S.S.R. Defense Council that he intended to sharply reduce the Soviet armed forces from 2.5 million men to half a million and to stop production of tanks and other offensive weapons. He thought that 200 to 300 intercontinental missiles made an attack on the Soviet Union impossible, while the money freed up by reducing the size of the army would be put to better use in agriculture and housing construction. But fate decreed otherwise, and the window of opportunity, barely cracked open, closed at once. In 1963 President Kennedy was killed, and a year later, in October 1964, my father was removed from power. The cold war continued for another quarter of a century…” [Sergei Khrushchev, Nikita Khrushchev’s son, the late professor of Soviet history at Brown University]

The Russians Are Coming!

One movie comedy I love which exemplifies the stupidity of our actions over the years toward the Soviet Union is the old 1965 movie “THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING, THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING” starring Alan Arkin, Carl Reiner, Eva Marie Saint, Brian Keith and Jonathan Winters. The movie is about a sightseeing Soviet submarine commander who accidentally runs his submarine aground on the coast of a small island in New England. The local townsfolk think the Russians are invading, while the poor Russians are just trying to find a powerboat that could help them dislodge their submarine off the sandbar. It is a hilarious movie about misjudged intentions, and in the end shows the attitudes we should have had all along toward the Russians.  

Be sure to purchase and read L. Fletcher Prouty's "JFK, The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy" and “JFK: AND THE UNSPEAKABLE, WHY HE DIED AND WHY IT MATTERS” by James W. Douglass © 2008, one of the most definitive and accurate compilations of data on the Kennedy Assassination ever compiled and written. Mr. Douglass really connects the dots.

Jack & Bobby Kennedy & The Civil Rights Movement

(Some Background History Before We Start With The Kennedy Brothers) 

Where Did We (and The British Empire) Get Our Wealth?

We sometimes forget, and perhaps it is an intentional forgetting, that the racism we are fighting today was originally conjured up to justify working unfree black people, often until death, to generate extravagant riches for European colonial powers,…The prosperity of this country [and the British Empire] is inextricably linked with the forced labor of the ancestors of 40 million black Americans for whom these marches are now occurring, just as it is linked to the stolen land of the country’s indigenous people. Though our high school history books seldom make this plain: Slavery and the 100-year period of racial apartheid and racial terrorism known as Jim Crow were, above all else, systems of economic exploitation. To borrow from Ta-Nehisi Coates’s phrasing, racism is the child of economic profiteering, not the father…At the time of the Civil War, the value of the enslaved human beings held as property added up to more than all of this nations’ railroads and factories combined. And yet, enslaved people saw not a dime of this wealth. They owned nothing and were owed nothing from all that had been built from their toil.” [Nikole Hannah-Jones, NYTimes, 6 June 2020]

Civil War and Reconstruction

Before the American Civil War, almost four million blacks were enslaved in the South, only white men of property could vote, and the Naturalization Act of 1790 limited U.S. citizenship to whites only. Following the Civil War, three constitutional amendments were passed, including the 13th Amendment (1865) that ended slavery; the 14th Amendment (1869) that gave African-Americans citizenship, adding their total population of four million to the official population of southern states for Congressional apportionment [not for their own good]; and the 15th Amendment (1870) that gave African-American males the right to vote (only males could vote in the U.S. at the time). From 1865 to 1877, the United States underwent a turbulent Reconstruction Era trying to establish free labor and civil rights of freedmen in the South after the end of slavery. Many whites resisted the social changes, leading to insurgent movements such as the Ku Klux Klan, whose members attacked black and white Republicans to maintain white supremacy. In 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant, the U.S. Army, and U.S. Attorney General Amos T. Akerman, initiated a campaign to repress the KKK under the Enforcement Acts. Some states were reluctant to enforce the federal measures of the act. In addition, by the early 1870s, other white supremacist and insurgent paramilitary groups arose that violently opposed African-American legal equality and suffrage, intimidating and suppressing black voters, and assassinating Republican officeholders. However, if the states failed to implement the acts, the laws allowed the Federal Government to get involved. Many Republican governors were afraid of sending black militia troops to fight the Klan for fear of war.” [, Civil Rights Movement]

The Period of Reconstruction--1865 to 1877

Slavery’s demise provided this nation the chance for redemption. Out of the ashes of sectarian strife, we could have birthed a new country, one that recognized the humanity and natural rights of those who helped forge this country, one that attempted to atone and provide redress for the unspeakable atrocities committed against black people in the name of profit. We could have finally, 100 years after the Revolution, embraced its founding ideals. And, oh so briefly, during the period known as Reconstruction, we moved toward that goal. The historian Eric Foner refers to these 12 years after the Civil War as this nation’s second founding, because it is here that America began to redeem the grave sin of slavery. Congress passed amendments abolishing human bondage, enshrining equal protection before the law in the Constitution and guaranteeing black men the right to vote. This nation witnessed its first period of biracial governance as the formerly enslaved were elected to public offices at all levels of government. For a fleeting moment, a few white men listened to the pleas of black people who had fought for the Union and helped deliver its victory. Land in this country has always meant wealth and, more important, independence. Millions of black people, liberated with not a cent to their name, desperately wanted property so they could work, support themselves and be left alone. Black people implored federal officials to take the land confiscated from enslavers who had taken up arms against their own country and grant it to those who worked it for generations. They were asking to, as the historian Robin D.G. Kelley puts it, “inherit the earth they had turned into wealth for idle white people.” [Nikole Hannah-Jones, NYTimes]

40 Acres And A Mule”

In January 1865, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman issued Special Field Order 15, providing for the distribution of hundreds of thousands of acres of former Confederate land issued in 40-acre tracts to newly freed people along coastal South Carolina and Georgia. But just four months later, in April, Lincoln was assassinated. Andrew Johnson, the racist, pro-Southern vice president who took over, immediately reneged upon this promise of 40 acres, overturning Sherman’s order. Most white Americans felt that black Americans should be grateful for their freedom, that the bloody Civil War had absolved any debt. The government confiscated the land from the few formerly enslaved families who had started to eke out a life away from the white whip and gave it back to the traitors. And with that, the only real effort this nation ever made to compensate black Americans for 250 years of chattel slavery ended [see Free State of Jones, a true history movie that makes this point graphically clear:]. Freed people, during and after slavery, tried again and again to compel the government to provide restitution for slavery, to provide at the very least a pension for those who spent their entire lives working for no pay. They filed lawsuits. They organized to lobby politicians. And every effort failed. To this day, the only Americans who have ever received government restitution for slavery were white enslavers in Washington, D.C., who were compensated for their loss of human property…Narratives collected of formerly enslaved people during the Federal Writers’ Project of the 1930s reveal the horrors of massive starvation, of “liberated” black people seeking shelter in burned-out buildings and scrounging for food in decaying fields before eventually succumbing to the heartbreak of returning to bend over in the fields of their former enslavers, as sharecroppers, just so they would not die. “With the advent of emancipation,” writes the historian Keri Leigh Merritt, “blacks became the only race in the U.S. ever to start out, as an entire people, with close to zero capital. In 1881, Frederick Douglass, surveying the utter privation in which the federal government left the formerly enslaved, wrote: “When the Hebrews were emancipated, they were told to take spoil from the Egyptians [and don’t forget, God was gracious enough to give them land to farm, the Land of Israel. America couldn’t even follow God’s example here.] When the serfs of Russia were emancipated, they were given three acres of ground upon which they could live and make a living. But not so when our slaves were emancipated. They were sent away empty-handed, without money, without friends and without a foot of land on which they could live and make a living. Old and young, sick and well, were turned loose to the naked sky, naked to their enemies.” [Nikole Hannah-Jones, NYTimes, 24 June 2020]


Disenfranchisement after Reconstruction


After the disputed election of 1876 resulted in the end of Reconstruction and federal troops were withdrawn, whites in the South regained political control of the region's state legislatures. They continued to intimidate and violently attack blacks before and during elections to suppress their voting, but the last African Americans were elected to Congress from the South before disenfranchisement of blacks by states throughout the region, as described below. From 1890 to 1908, southern states passed new constitutions and laws to disenfranchise African Americans and many poor whites by creating barriers to voter registration; voting rolls were dramatically reduced as blacks and poor whites were forced out of electoral politics. After the landmark Supreme Court case of Smith v. Allwright (1944)…The status quo ante of excluding African Americans from the political system lasted in the remainder of the South, especially North Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, until national civil rights legislation was passed in the mid-1960s to provide federal enforcement of constitutional voting rights…During this period, the white-dominated Democratic Party maintained political control of the South. With whites controlling all the seats representing the total population of the South, they had a powerful voting bloc in Congress…Until 1965, the “Solid South” was a one-party system under the white Democrats…During the same time as African Americans were being disenfranchised, white southerners imposed racial segregation by law. Violence against blacks increased, with numerous lynchings through the turn of the century [1890s to 1900s]. The system of de jure state-sanctioned racial discrimination and oppression that emerged from the post-Reconstruction South came to be known as the “Jim Crow” system. The United States Supreme Court, made up almost entirely of Northerners, upheld the constitutionality of those state laws that required racial segregation in public facilities in its 1896 decision Plessy v. Ferguson, legitimizing them through the "separate but equal" doctrine. Segregation, which began with slavery, continued with Jim Crow laws, with signs used to show blacks where they could legally walk, talk, drink, rest, or eat. For those places that were racially mixed, non-whites had to wait until all white customers were served first.

Characteristics of the post-Reconstruction period:

  • Racial segregation: By law, public facilities and government services such as education were divided into separate "white" and "colored" domains. Characteristically, those for colored were underfunded and of inferior quality.

·         Disenfranchisement: When white Democrats regained power, they passed laws that made voter registration more restrictive, essentially forcing black voters off the voting rolls. The number of African-American voters dropped dramatically, and they were no longer able to elect representatives. From 1890 to 1908, Southern states of the former Confederacy created constitutions with provisions that disfranchised tens of thousands of African Americans, and U.S. states such as Alabama disenfranchised poor whites as well.

  • Exploitation: Increased economic oppression of blacks through the “convict lease” system, Latinos, and Asians, denial of economic opportunities, and widespread employment discrimination.

  • Violence: Individual, police, paramilitary, organizational, and mob racial violence against blacks (and Latinos in the Southwest and Asians in the West Coast). [ibid.]

The Great Migration

From 1910 to 1970, African Americans sought better lives by migrating north and west out of the South. A total of nearly seven million blacks left the South in what was known as the Great Migration, most during and after World War II. So many people migrated that the demographics of some previously black-majority states changed to a white majority…African Americans in Northern and Western cities experienced systemic discrimination in a plethora of aspects of life. Within employment, economic opportunities for blacks were routed to the lowest-status and restrictive in potential mobility. Within the housing market, stronger discriminatory measures were used in correlation to the influx, resulting in a mix of "targeted violence, restrictive covenants, redlining, and racial steering". The Great Migration resulted in many African Americans becoming urbanized, and they began to realign from the Republican to the Democratic Party, especially because of opportunities under the New Deal of the Franklin D. Roosevelt [and Henry A. Wallace] administration during the Great Depression in the 1930s. [FDR and his VP Henry A. Wallace were not racist, just as Jack and Bobby Kennedy were not.] Substantially under pressure from African-American supporters who began the March on Washington Movement, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the first federal order banning discrimination and created the Fair Employment Practice Committee. Black veterans of the military after both World Wars pressed for full civil rights and often led activist movements. In 1948, President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9981, which eventually led to the end of segregation in the armed services.” [ibid., Civil Rights Movement]

Real Estate

Homestead Act Blesses Whites, Blacks Denied Access


Just after the federal government decided that black people were undeserving of restitution, it began bestowing millions of acres in the West to white Americans under the Homestead Act, while also enticing white foreigners to immigrate with the offer of free land. From 1868 to 1934, the federal government gave away 246 million acres in 160-acre tracts, nearly 10 percent of all the land in the nation, to more than 1.5 million white families, native-born and foreign. As Merritt points out, some 46 million American adults today, nearly 20 percent of all American adults, descend from those homesteaders. “If that many white Americans can trace their legacy of wealth and property ownership to a single entitlement program,” Merritt writes, “then the perpetuation of black poverty must also be linked to national policy.” [Nikole Hannah-Jones, NYTimes, 24 June 2020]

Housing segregation was a nationwide problem, widespread outside the South…Suburbanization became connected with white flight by this time, because whites were better established economically to move to newer housing. The situation was perpetuated by real estate agents' continuing racial discrimination. In particular, from the 1930s to the 1960s, the National Association of Real Estate Boards (NAREB) issued guidelines that specified that a realtor "should never be instrumental in introducing to a neighborhood a character or property or occupancy, members of any race or nationality, or any individual whose presence will be clearly detrimental to property values in a neighborhood." The result was the development of all-black ghettos in the North and West, where much housing was older, as well as South.” [, Civil Right Movement]

From The End Of Reconstruction To Now

The federal government turned its back on its financial obligations to four million newly liberated people, and then it left them without protection as well, as white rule was reinstated across the South starting in the 1880s. Federal troops pulled out of the South, and white Southerners overthrew biracial governance using violence, coups and election fraud. The campaigns of white terror that marked the period after Reconstruction, known as Redemption, once again guaranteed an exploitable, dependent labor force for the white South. Most black Southerners had no desire to work on the same forced-labor camps where they had just been enslaved. But white Southerners passed state laws that made it a crime if they didn’t sign labor contracts with white landowners or changed employers without permission or sold cotton after sunset, and then as punishment for these “crimes,” black people were forcibly leased out to companies and individuals. Through sharecropping and convict leasing, black people were compelled back into quasi slavery. This arrangement ensured that once-devasted towns like Greenwood, Miss., were again able to call themselves the cotton capitals of the world, and companies like United States Steel secured a steady supply of unfree black laborers who could be worked to death, in what Douglass A. Blackmon, in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, calls “slavery by another name.” Yet black Americans persisted, and despite the odds, some managed to acquire land, start businesses and build schools for their children. But it was the most prosperous black people and communities that elicited the most vicious response. Lynchings, massacres and generalized racial terrorism were regularly deployed against black people who had bought land, opened schools, built thriving communities, tried to organize sharecroppers’ unions or opened their own businesses, depriving white owners of economic monopolies and the opportunity to cheat black buyers. At least 6,500 black people were lynched from the end of the Civil War to 1950, an average of nearly two a week for nine decades. Nearly five black people, on average, have been killed a week by law enforcement since 2015 [to now]. The scale of the destruction during the 1900s is incalculable. Black farms were stolen, shops burned to the ground. Entire prosperous black neighborhoods and communities were razed by white mobs from Florida to North Carolina to Atlanta to Arkansas. One of the most infamous of these, and yet still widely unknown among white Americans, occurred in Tulsa, Okla., when gangs of white men, armed with guns supplied by public officials, destroyed a black district [which had previously been] so successful that it was known as Black Wall Street. They burned more than 1,200 homes and businesses, including a department store, a library and a hospital, and killed hundreds who it is believed were buried in mass graves. In 2001, a commission on the massacre recommended that the state pay financial restitution for the victims, but the State Legislature refused…” [Nikole Hannah-Jones, NYTimes, 24 June 2020]

The Economics of Racism

Wealth, not income, is the means to security in America. Wealth -- assets and investments minus debt -- is what enables you to buy homes in safer neighborhoods with better amenities and better-funded schools. It is what enables you to send your children to college without saddling them with tens of thousands of dollars of debt and what provides you money to put a down payment on a house. It is what prevents family emergencies or unexpected job losses from turning into catastrophes that leave you homeless and destitute. It is what ensures what every parent wants -- that your children will have fewer struggles than you did…But wealth is not something people create solely by themselves; it is accumulated across generations. While unchecked discrimination still plays a significant role in shunting opportunities for black Americans, it is white Americans’ centuries-long economic head start that most effectively maintains racial caste today. As soon as laws began to ban racial discrimination against black Americans, white Americans created so-called race-neutral means of maintaining political and economic power. For example, soon after the 15th Amendment granted black men the right to vote, white politicians in many states, understanding that recently freed black Americans were impoverished, implemented poll taxes. In other words, white Americans have long known that in a country where black people have been kept disproportionately poor and prevented from building wealth, rules and policies involving money can be nearly as effective for maintaining the color line as legal segregation. You do not have to have laws forcing segregated housing and schools if white Americans, using their generational wealth and higher incomes, can simply buy their way into expensive enclaves with exclusive public schools that are out of the price range of most black Americans. [Nikole Hannah-Jones, NYTimes 24 June 2020]

How Did This Come To Be?

It [economic racism] has worked with impressive efficiency. Today black Americans remain the most segregated group of people in America and are five times as likely to live in high-poverty neighborhoods as white Americans.” As President Johnson, architect of the Great Society, explained in a 1965 speech titled “To Fulfill These Rights”: “Negro poverty is not white poverty. …These differences are not racial differences. They are solely and simply the consequence of ancient brutality, past injustice and present prejudice. They are anguishing to observe. For the Negro they are a constant reminder of oppression. For the white they are a constant reminder of guilt. But they must be faced, and they must be dealt with, and they must be overcome; if we are ever to reach the time when the only difference between Negroes and whites is the color of their skin.” [to hear President Johnson’s speech, click on:] “It has been more than 150 years since the white planter class last called up the slave patrols and deputized every white citizen to stop, question and subdue any black person who came across their paths in order to control and surveil a population who refused to submit to their enslavement…Those laws morphed into the black codes, passed by white Southern politicians at the end of the Civil War to criminalize behaviors like not having a job. Those black codes were struck down, then altered and over the course of decades eventually transmuted into ‘stop-and-frisk,’ ‘broken windows’ and, of course, ‘qualified immunity.’ The names of the mechanisms of social control have changed, but the presumption that white patrollers have the legal right to kill black people deemed to have committed minor infractions or to have breached the social order has remained. In a country erected on the explicitly codified conviction that black lives mattered less, graveyards across this land hold the bodies of black Americans, men, women and children, legally killed by the institutional descendants of those slave patrols for alleged transgressions like walking from the store with Skittles, playing with a toy gun in the park, sleeping in their homes and selling untaxed cigarettes. We collectively know only a small number of their names: Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Kendra James, Breonna Taylor, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Aiyana Stanley-Jones and Tanisha Anderson are just a few.” “There is too much to know, and yet we aggressively choose not to know it…No one can predict whether this uprising will lead to lasting change [the George Floyd marches].” But let’s learn more. “Fifty years since the bloody and brutally repressed protests and freedom struggles of black Americans brought about the end of legal discrimination in this country, so much of what makes black lives hard, what takes black lives earlier, what causes black Americans to be vulnerable to the type of surveillance and policing that killed Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, what steals opportunities, is the lack of wealth that has been a defining feature of black life since the end of slavery.” [Nikole Hannah-Jones, NYTimes, 24 June 2020]


Start of the Civil Rights Movement

Protest Beginnings, 1950s


Invigorated by the victory of Brown and frustrated by the lack of immediate practical effect, private citizens increasingly rejected gradualist, legalistic approaches as the primary tool to bring about desegregation. They were faced with "massive resistance" in the South by proponents of racial segregation and voter suppression. In defiance, African-American activists adopted a combined strategy of direct action, nonviolence, nonviolent resistance, and many events described as civil disobedience, giving rise to the civil rights movement of 1954 to 1968…After Claudette Colvin was arrested for not giving up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus in March 1955, a bus boycott was considered and rejected. But when Rosa Parks was arrested in December, Jo Ann Robinson of the Montgomery Women's Political Council put the bus boycott protest in motion. Late that night, she, John Cannon (chairman of the Business Department at Alabama State University) and others mimeographed and distributed thousands of leaflets calling for a boycott. The eventual success of the boycott made its spokesman Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a nationally known figure. It also inspired other bus boycotts, such as the successful Tallahassee, Florida boycott of 1956–57” [ibid., Civil Rights Movement]

The Supreme Court Actions

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded in 1909. It fought to end race discrimination through litigation, education, and lobbying efforts. Its crowning achievement was its legal victory in the Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education (1954), when the Warren Court ruled that segregation of public schools in the US was unconstitutional and, by implication, overturned the "separate but equal" doctrine established in Plessy v. Ferguson of 1896. Following the unanimous Supreme Court ruling, many states began to gradually integrate their schools, but some areas of the South resisted by closing public schools altogether…At the culmination of a legal strategy pursued by African Americans, the U.S. Supreme Court began, in 1954 under the leadership of Earl Warren, to find unconstitutional many of the laws that had allowed racial segregation and discrimination to be legal in the United States. The Warren Court made a series of landmark rulings such as Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States (1964), and Loving v. Virginia (1967) which banned segregation in public schools and public accommodations, and struck down all state laws banning interracial marriage. The rulings also helped bring an end to the segregationist Jim Crow laws prevalent in the Southern states. In the 1960s, moderates in the movement worked with Congress to achieve the passage of several significant pieces of federal legislation that overturned discriminatory practices and authorized oversight and enforcement by the federal government. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States (1964), expressly banned discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in employment practices; ended unequal application of voter registration requirements; and prohibited racial segregation in schools, at the workplace, and in public accommodations. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 restored and protected voting rights for minorities by authorizing federal oversight of registration and elections in areas with historic under-representation of minorities as voters. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 banned discrimination in the sale or rental of housing.” [ibid., Civil Rights Movement]

Brown v. Board of Education, 1954

On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren ruled unanimously in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, that mandating, or even permitting, public schools to be segregated by race was unconstitutional. Chief Justice Warren wrote in the court majority opinion that,

Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law; for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the Negro group.” [ibid. Wikipedia, Civil Rights Movement]


Emmett Till’s Murder, 1955


Emmett Till, a 14-year old African American from Chicago, visited his relatives in Money, Mississippi, for the summer. He allegedly had an interaction with a white woman, Carolyn Bryant, in a small grocery store that violated the norms of Mississippi culture, and Bryant's husband Roy and his half-brother J. W. Milam brutally murdered young Emmett Till. They beat and mutilated him before shooting him in the head and sinking his body in the Tallahatchie. Three days later, Till's body was discovered and retrieved from the river. After Emmett's mother, Mamie Till, came to identify the remains of her son, she decided she wanted to "let the people see what I have seen." Till's mother then had his body taken back to Chicago where she had it displayed in an open casket during the funeral services where many thousands of visitors arrived to show their respects. A later publication of an image at the funeral in Jet is credited as a crucial moment in the civil rights era for displaying in vivid detail the violent racism that was being directed at black people in America. In a column for The Atlantic, Vann R. Newkirk wrote: "The trial of his killers became a pageant illuminating the tyranny of white supremacy." The state of Mississippi tried two defendants, but they were speedily acquitted by an all-white jury. "Emmett's murder," historian Tim Tyson writes, "would never have become a watershed historical moment without Mamie finding the strength to make her private grief a public matter." The visceral response to his mother's decision to have an open-casket funeral mobilized the black community throughout the U.S. The murder and resulting trial ended up markedly impacting the views of several young black activists. Joyce Ladner referred to such activists as the "Emmett Till generation." One hundred days after Emmett Till's murder, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Parks later informed Till's mother that her decision to stay in her seat was guided by the image she still vividly recalled of Till's brutalized remains. The glass topped casket that was used for Till's Chicago funeral was found in a cemetery garage in 2009. Till had been reburied in a different casket after being exhumed in 2005. Till's family decided to donate the original casket to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American Culture and History, where it is now on display. In 2007, Bryant disclosed that she had fabricated the most sensational part of her story in 1955.” [, Civil Rights Movement]


Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1955-1956


On December 1, 1955, nine months after a 15-year-old high school student, Claudette Colvin, refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and was arrested, Rosa Parks did the same thing. Parks soon became the symbol of the resulting Montgomery Bus Boycott and received national publicity. She was later hailed as the "mother of the civil rights movement"…After Parks' arrest, African Americans gathered and organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott to demand a bus system in which passengers would be treated equally. The organization was led by Jo Ann Robinson, a member of the Women's Political Council who had been waiting for the opportunity to boycott the bus system. Following Rosa Park's arrest, Jo Ann Robinson mimeographed 52,500 leaflets calling for a boycott. They were distributed around the city and helped gather the attention of civil rights leaders…With the support of most of Montgomery's 50,000 African Americans, the boycott lasted for 381 days, until the local ordinance segregating African Americans and whites on public buses was repealed…In November 1956, the United States Supreme Court upheld a district court ruling in the case of Browder v. Gayle and ordered Montgomery's buses desegregated, ending the boycott.” [ibid., Civil Rights Movement]

Freedom Rides, 1961

Freedom Rides were journeys by civil rights activists on interstate buses into the segregated southern United States to test the United States Supreme Court decision Boynton v. Virginia, 364 U.S. 454 (1960), which ruled that segregation was unconstitutional for passengers engaged in interstate travel. Organized by CORE, the first Freedom Ride of the 1960s left Washington D.C. on May 4, 1961, and was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on May 17. During the first and subsequent Freedom Rides, activists traveled through the Deep South to integrate seating patterns on buses and desegregate bus terminals, including restrooms and water fountains. That proved to be a dangerous mission. In Anniston, Alabama, one bus was firebombed, forcing its passengers to flee for their lives.”

A mob beats Freedom Riders in Birmingham. This picture was reclaimed by the FBI from a local journalist who also was beaten and whose camera was smashed. In Birmingham, Alabama, an FBI informant reported that Public Safety Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor gave Ku Klux Klan members fifteen minutes to attack an incoming group of freedom riders before having police "protect" them. The riders were severely beaten "until it looked like a bulldog had got a hold of them." James Peck, a white activist, was beaten so badly that he required fifty stitches to his head.” [ibid., Civil Rights Movement]


Integration of Mississippi universities, 1962,

Bobby & Jack Kennedy Send In The Cavalry


In September 1962, James Meredith won a lawsuit to secure admission to the previously segregated University of Mississippi. He attempted to enter campus on September 20, on September 25, and again on September 26. He was blocked by Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett, who said, "[N]o school will be integrated in Mississippi while I am your Governor." The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held Barnett and Lieutenant Governor Paul B. Johnson Jr. in contempt, ordering them arrested and fined more than $10,000 for each day they refused to allow Meredith to enroll.

U.S. Army trucks loaded with Federal law enforcement personnel on the University of Mississippi campus 1962

Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy sent in a force of U.S. Marshals and deputized U.S. Border Patrol agents and Federal Bureau of Prisons officers. On September 30, 1962, Meredith entered the campus under their escort. Students and other whites began rioting that evening, throwing rocks and firing on the federal agents guarding Meredith at Lyceum Hall. Rioters ended up killing two civilians, including a French journalist; 28 federal agents suffered gunshot wounds, and 160 others were injured. President John F. Kennedy sent U.S. Army and federalized Mississippi National Guard forces to the campus to quell the riot. Meredith began classes the day after the troops arrived.” [ibid., Civil Rights Movement] [This true story of Dr. Shirley, the famous Black concert pianist, traveling through the Deep South on a Concert Tour was depicted in the movie Green Book, and shows the standards Blacks lived under while trying to travel through the South, the timing of the actual events portrayed in the movie was 1962, helping to put this year in proper historic perspective. Dr. Shirley actually had to call Bobby Kennedy to get them out of a Southern jail. Click on the link to watch the Trailer for this incredible movie:] [the book that gives the whole story about what it is like driving while black is given in the book titled Driving While Black written by Gretchen Sorin, Liveright Publishing Corporation, A Division of W.W. Norton & Company, New York, London]


"Rising tide of discontent" and Kennedy's response, 1963


Birmingham was only one of over a hundred cities rocked by the chaotic protest that spring and summer, some of them in the North but mainly in the South. During the March on Washington, Martin Luther King would refer to such protests as "the whirlwinds of revolt." In Chicago, blacks rioted through the South Side in late May after a white police officer shot a fourteen-year-old black boy who was fleeing the scene of a robbery. Violent clashes between black activists and white workers took place in both Philadelphia and Harlem in successful efforts to integrate state construction projects. On June 6, over a thousand whites attacked a sit-in in Lexington, North Carolina; blacks fought back and one white man was killed. Edwin C. Berry of the National Urban League warned of a complete breakdown in race relations: "My message from the beer gardens and the barbershops all indicate the fact that the Negro is ready for war.”…“In their deliberations during this wave of protests, the Kennedy administration privately felt that militant demonstrations were ʺbad for the countryʺ and that "Negroes are going to push this thing too far." On May 24, Robert Kennedy had a meeting with prominent black intellectuals to discuss the racial situation. The blacks criticized Kennedy harshly for vacillating on civil rights and said that the African-American community's thoughts were increasingly turning to violence. The meeting ended with ill will on all sides. Nonetheless, the Kennedys ultimately decided that new legislation for equal public accommodations was essential to drive activists “into the courts and out of the streets.” On June 11, 1963, George Wallace, Governor of Alabama, tried to block the integration of the University of Alabama. President John F. Kennedy sent a military force to make Governor Wallace step aside, allowing the enrollment of Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood. That evening, President Kennedy addressed the nation on TV and radio with his historic civil rights speech [see YouTube link at the end of this article], where he lamented "a rising tide of discontent that threatens the public safety." He called on Congress to pass new civil rights legislation, and urged the country to embrace civil rights as "a moral our daily lives." In the early hours of June 12, Medgar Evers, field secretary of the Mississippi NAACP, was assassinated by a member of the Klan. The next week, as promised, on June 19, 1963, President Kennedy submitted his Civil Rights bill to Congress.” [ibid., Civil Rights Movement]

March on Washington, 1963

Randolph and Bayard Rustin were the chief planners of the second march, which they proposed in 1962. In 1963, the Kennedy administration initially opposed the march out of concern it would negatively impact the drive for passage of civil rights legislation. However, Randolph and King were firm that the march would proceed. With the march going forward, the Kennedys decided it was important to work to ensure its success. Concerned about the turnout, President Kennedy enlisted the aid of white church leaders and Walter Reuther, president of the UAW, to help mobilize white supporters for the march. The march was held on August 28, 1963. Unlike the planned 1941 march, for which Randolph included only black-led organizations in the planning, the 1963 march was a collaborative effort of all of the major civil rights organizations, the more progressive wing of the labor movement, and other liberal organizations. The march had six official goals:

  • meaningful civil rights laws

  • a massive federal works program

  • full and fair employment

  • decent housing

  • the right to vote

  • adequate integrated education.

Of these, the march's major focus was on passage of the civil rights law that the Kennedy administration had proposed after the upheavals in Birmingham.”

Martin Luther King Jr. at a Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C.

National media attention also greatly contributed to the march's national exposure and probable impact. In the essay "The March on Washington and Television News," historian William Thomas notes: "Over five hundred cameramen, technicians, and correspondents from the major networks were set to cover the event. More cameras would be set up than had filmed the last presidential inauguration. One camera was positioned high in the Washington Monument, to give dramatic vistas of the marchers." By carrying the organizers' speeches and offering their own commentary, television stations framed the way their local audiences saw and understood the event. The march was a success, although not without controversy. An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 demonstrators gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial, where King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. While many speakers applauded the Kennedy administration for the efforts it had made toward obtaining new, more effective civil rights legislation protecting the right to vote and outlawing segregation, John Lewis [who just died] of SNCC took the administration to task for not doing more to protect southern blacks and civil rights workers under attack in the Deep South. After the march, King and other civil rights leaders met with President Kennedy at the White House. While the Kennedy administration appeared sincerely committed to passing the bill, it was not clear that it had enough votes in Congress to do so. However, when President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, the new President Lyndon Johnson decided to use his influence in Congress to bring about much of Kennedy's legislative agenda.” [ibid., Civil Rights Movement] And President Johnson faithfully carried that torch throughout his Presidency.

Voting Rights Act of 1965

Eight days after the first march, but before the final march, President Johnson delivered a televised address to support the voting rights bill he had sent to Congress. In it he stated:

Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.”

On August 6, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which suspended literacy tests and other subjective voter registration tests. It authorized Federal supervision of voter registration in states and individual voting districts where such tests were being used and where African Americans were historically under-represented in voting rolls compared to the eligible population. African Americans who had been barred from registering to vote finally had an alternative to taking suits to local or state courts, which had seldom prosecuted their cases to success. If discrimination in voter registration occurred, the 1965 act authorized the Attorney General of the United States to send Federal examiners to replace local registrars. Within months of the bill's passage, 250,000 new black voters had been registered, one-third of them by federal examiners. Within four years, voter registration in the South had more than doubled. In 1965, Mississippi had the highest black voter turnout at 74% and led the nation in the number of black public officials elected. In 1969, Tennessee had a 92.1% turnout among black voters; Arkansas, 77.9%; and Texas, 73.1%.” [ibid., Civil Rights Movement]


Memphis, King assassination and the Civil Rights Act of 1968


Rev. James Lawson invited King to Memphis, Tennessee, in March 1968 to support a sanitation workers’ strike. These workers launched a campaign for union representation after two workers were accidentally killed on the job; they were seeking fair wages and improved working conditions. King considered their struggle to be a vital part of the Poor People’s Campaign he was planning. A day after delivering his stirring "I’ve Been to the Mountaintop" sermon, which has become famous for his vision of American society, King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Riots broke out in black neighborhoods in more than 110 cities across the United States in the days that followed, notably in Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. The day before King’s funeral, April 8, a completely silent march with Coretta Scott King, SCLC, and UAW president Walter Reuther attracted approximately 42,000 participants. Armed National Guardsmen lined the streets, sitting on M-48 tanks, to protect the marchers, and helicopters circled overhead. On April 9, Mrs. King led another 150,000 people in a funeral procession through the streets of Atlanta. Her dignity revived courage and hope in many of the Movement's members, confirming her place as the new leader in the struggle for racial equality. Coretta Scott King said,

[Martin Luther King Jr.] gave his life for the poor of the world, the garbage workers of Memphis and the peasants of Vietnam. The day that Negro people and others in bondage are truly free, on the day want is abolished, on the day wars are no more, on that day I know my husband will rest in a long-deserved peace.” [ibid., Civil Rights Movement]

The Civil rights Act of 1968

As 1968 began, the fair housing bill was being filibustered once again, but two developments revived it. The Kerner Commission report on the 1967 ghetto riots was delivered to Congress on March 1, and it strongly recommended "a comprehensive and enforceable federal open housing law" as a remedy to the civil disturbances. The Senate was moved to end their filibuster that week. The House of Representatives had been deliberating its Fair Housing Act in early April, before Dr. King's assassination and the aforementioned wave of unrest that followed, the largest since the Civil War. Senator Charles Mathias wrote that:

some Senators and Representatives publicly stated they would not be intimidated or rushed into legislating because of the disturbances. Nevertheless, the news coverage of the riots and the underlying disparities in income, jobs, housing, and education, between White and Black Americans helped educate citizens and Congress about the stark reality of an enormous social problem. Members of Congress knew they had to act to redress these imbalances in American life to fulfill the dream that King had so eloquently preached.

The House passed the legislation on April 10, less than a week after King was murdered, and President Johnson signed it the next day. The Civil Rights Act of 1968 prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, and national origin. It also made it a federal crime to "by force or by the threat of force, injure, intimidate, or interfere with reason of their race, color, religion, or national origin." [, Civil Rights Movement]


Robert F. Kennedy

Attorney General of the United States (1961–1964)

Civil rights

Kennedy expressed the administration's commitment to civil rights during a 1961 speech at the University of Georgia Law School:

Our position is quite clear. We are upholding the law. The federal government would not be running the schools in Prince Edward County any more than it is running the University of Georgia or the schools in my home state of Massachusetts. In this case, in all cases, I say to you today that if the orders of the court are circumvented, the Department of Justice will act. We will not stand by or be aloof--we will move. I happen to believe that the 1954 decision was right. But my belief does not matter. It is now the law. Some of you may believe the decision was wrong. That does not matter. It is the law.”

Kennedy speaking to civil rights demonstrators in front of the Justice Department on June 14, 1963

Kennedy remained committed to civil rights enforcement to such a degree that he commented in 1962 that it seemed to envelop almost every area of his public and private life, from prosecuting corrupt Southern electoral officials to answering late night calls from Coretta Scott King concerning the imprisonment of her husband for demonstrations in Alabama. During his tenure as attorney general, he undertook the most energetic and persistent desegregation of the administration that Capitol Hill had ever experienced. He demanded that every area of government begin recruiting realistic levels of black and other ethnic workers, going so far as to criticize Vice President Johnson for his failure to desegregate his own office staff. However, relations between the Kennedys and civil rights activists could be tense, partly due to the administration's decision that a number of complaints which King filed with the Justice Department between 1961 and 1963 be handled "through negotiation between the city commission and Negro citizens."

Although it has become commonplace to assert the phrase “The Kennedy Administration” or even "President Kennedy" when discussing the legislative and executive support of the civil rights movement, between 1960 and 1963 a great many of the initiatives that occurred during his tenure were the result of the passion and determination of an emboldened Robert Kennedy, who, through his rapid education in the realities of Southern racism, underwent a thorough conversion of purpose as attorney general. Asked in an interview in May 1962, "What do you see as the big problem ahead for you, is it crime or internal security?" Kennedy replied, "Civil rights." The president came to share his brother's sense of urgency on the matters at hand to such an extent that it was at the attorney general's insistence that he made his famous June 1963 address to the nation on civil rights [see YouTube link at end of this article]. Kennedy played a large role in the response to the Freedom Riders protests. He acted after the Anniston bus bombings to protect the Riders in continuing their journey, sending John Seigenthaler, his administrative assistant, to Alabama to attempt to secure the Riders' safety there. Despite a work rule which allowed a driver to decline an assignment which he regarded as a potentially unsafe one, he persuaded a manager of The Greyhound Corporation to obtain a coach operator who was willing to drive a special bus for the continuance of the Freedom Ride from Birmingham, Alabama, to Montgomery, Alabama, on the circuitous journey to Jackson, Mississippi.”

Later, during the attack and burning by a white mob of the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, at which Martin Luther King Jr. and some 1,500 sympathizers were in attendance, the attorney general telephoned King to ask for his assurance that they would not leave the building until the force of U.S. Marshals and National Guard he sent had secured the area. King proceeded to berate Kennedy for "allowing the situation to continue." King later publicly thanked him for dispatching the forces to break up the attack that might otherwise have ended his life. Kennedy then negotiated the safe passage of the Freedom Riders from the First Baptist Church to Jackson, Mississippi, where they were arrested. He offered to bail the Freedom Riders out of jail, but they refused, which upset him. In September 1962, Kennedy sent a force of U.S. marshals and deputized U.S. Border Patrol agents and federal prison guards to Oxford, Mississippi, to enforce a federal court order allowing the admittance of the first African-American student, James Meredith, to the University of Mississippi. The attorney general had hoped that legal means, along with the escort of federal officers, would be enough to force Governor Ross Barnett to allow Meredith's admission. He also was very concerned there might be a "mini-civil war" between federal troops and armed protesters. President Kennedy reluctantly sent federal troops after the situation on campus turned violent.”

Ensuing riots during the period of Meredith’s admittance resulted in 300 injuries and two deaths, yet Kennedy remained adamant that black students had the right to enjoy the benefits of all levels of the educational system. The Office of Civil Rights also hired its first African-American lawyer and began to work cautiously with leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Kennedy saw voting as the key to racial justice and collaborated with presidents Kennedy and Johnson to create the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which helped bring an end to Jim Crow laws. Between December 1961 and December 1963, Kennedy also expanded the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division by 60 percent.”

In June 1966, he visited apartheid-era South Africa accompanied by his wife, Ethel, and a few aides. The tour was greeted with international praise at a time when few politicians dared to entangle themselves in the politics of South Africa. He spoke out against the oppression of the native population, and was welcomed by the black population as though he were a visiting head of state. In an interview with Look magazine he said:

At the University of Natal in Durban, I was told the church to which most of the white population belongs teaches apartheid as a moral necessity. A questioner declared that few churches allow black Africans to pray with the white because the Bible says that is the way it should be, because God created Negroes to serve. 'But suppose God is black', I replied. 'What if we go to Heaven and we, all our lives, have treated the Negro as an inferior, and God is there, and we look up and He is not white? What then is our response?' There was no answer. Only silence.”

At the University of Cape Town he delivered the annual Day of Affirmation Address. A quote from this address appears on his memorial at Arlington National Cemetery: "Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope."

During his years as a senator, he helped to start a successful redevelopment project in poverty-stricken Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Schlesinger wrote that Kennedy had hoped Bedford-Stuyvesant would become an example of self-imposed growth for other impoverished neighborhoods. Kennedy had difficulty securing support from President Johnson, whose administration was charged by Kennedy as having opposed a "special impact" program meant to bring about the federal progress that he had supported. Robert B. Semple Jr. repeated similar sentiments in September 1967, writing the Johnson administration was preparing "a concentrated attack" on Robert F. Kennedy's proposal that Semple claimed would "build more and better low-cost housing in the slums through private enterprise." Kennedy confided to journalist Jack Newfield that while he tried collaborating with the administration through courting its members and compromising with the bill, "They didn't even try to work something out together. To them it's all just politics.” [Bobby Kennedy was a true-believer in Civil Rights, whereas President Johnson was a politician that got things through Congress far easier, and they both hated each other, but they both advanced the cause of Civil Rights greatly.]

He also visited the Mississippi Delta as a member of the Senate committee reviewing the effectiveness of 'War on Poverty' programs, particularly that of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. Marian Wright Edelman described Kennedy as "deeply moved and outraged" by the sight of the starving children living in the economically abysmal climate, changing her impression of him from "tough, arrogant, and politically driven." Edelman noted further that the senator requested she call on Martin Luther King Jr. to bring the impoverished to Washington, D.C., to make them more visible, leading to the creation of the Poor People’s Campaign. Kennedy sought to remedy the problems of poverty through legislation to encourage private industry to locate in poverty-stricken areas, thus creating jobs for the unemployed, and stressed the importance of work over welfare.”

As a senator, he was popular among African Americans and other minorities including Native Americans and immigrant groups. He spoke forcefully in favor of what he called the "disaffected", the impoverished, and "the excluded", thereby aligning himself with leaders of the civil rights struggle and social justice campaigners, leading the Democratic party in pursuit of a more aggressive agenda to eliminate perceived discrimination on all levels. He supported desegregation busing, integration of all public facilities, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and anti-poverty social programs to increase education, offer opportunities for employment, and provide health care for African Americans. Consistent with President Kennedy's Alliance for Progress, he also placed increasing emphasis on human rights as a central focus of U.S. foreign policy.” [Robert F. Kennedy, taken from] Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, murdered on June 6th, 1968, exactly two months and two days from Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.


The Civil Rights Movement Of The 1960s Was A Kind Of Re-Activation Of The Period Of Reconstruction


The civil rights movement …civil rights laws passed in the 1960s merely guaranteed black people rights they should have always had. They dictated that from that day forward, the government would no longer sanction legal racial discrimination. But these laws did not correct the harm nor restore what was lost. Brown v. Board of Education did not end segregated and unequal schools; it just ended segregation in the law. It took court orders and, at times, federal troops to see any real integration [which Jack & Bobby Kennedy along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. worked tirelessly to accomplish]…The seldom-quoted King is the one who said that the true battle for equality, the actualization of justice, required economic repair. After watching Northern cities explode even as his movement’s efforts to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act came to fruition, King gave a speech in 1967 in Atlanta before the Hungry Club Forum, a secret gathering of white politicians and civil rights leaders. King said: “For well now 12 years, the struggle was basically a struggle to end legal segregation. In a sense it was a struggle for decency. It was a struggle to get rid of all of the humiliation and the syndrome of depravation surrounding the system of legal segregation. And I need not remind you that those were glorious days. … It is now a struggle for genuine equality on all levels, and this will be a much more difficult struggle. You see, the gains in the first period, or the first era of struggle, were obtained from the power structure at bargain rates; it didn’t cost the nation anything to integrate lunch counters. It didn’t cost the nation anything to integrate hotels and motels. It didn’t cost the nation a penny to guarantee the right to vote. Now we are in a period where it will cost the nation billions of dollars to get rid of poverty, to get rid of slums, to make quality integrated education a reality. This is where we are now. Now we’re going to lose some friends in this period. The allies who were with us in Selma will not all stay with us during this period. We’ve got to understand what is happening. Now they often call this the white backlash. …It’s just a new name for an old phenomenon. The fact is that there has never been any single, solid, determined commitment on the part of the vast majority of white Americans to [grant] genuine equality for Negroes. A year later, in March 1968, just a month before his assassination, in a speech to striking, impoverished black sanitation workers in Memphis, King said: “Now our struggle is for genuine equality, which means economic equality. For we know that it isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t have enough money to buy a hamburger?” [Nikole Hannah-Jones, NYTimes, 24 June 2020]


After The Dual Assassinations Of Bobby Kennedy & Dr. King, A Lid Was Placed

On The Civil Rights Movement Which Has Remained In Place For 52 Years


After the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, uprisings in more than 100 cities broke the final congressional deadlock over whether it should be illegal to deny people housing simply because they descended from people who had been enslaved. The Fair Housing Act, which prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, gender and religion, among other categories, seemed destined to die in Congress as white Southerners were joined by many of their Northern counterparts who knew housing segregation was central to how Jim Crow was accomplished in the North. But just seven days after King’s death, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the act into law from the smoldering capital, which was still under protection from the National Guard. After black uprisings swept the nation in the mid-1960s, Johnson created the Kerner Commission to examine their causes, and the report it issued in 1968 recommended a national effort to dismantle segregation and structural racism across American institutions. It was shelved by the president, like so many similar reports, and instead white Americans voted in a “law and order” president, Richard Nixon. The following decades brought increased police militarization, law-enforcement spending and mass incarceration of black Americans. Black Lives Matter, the group founded in 2013 by three black women, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, after the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer, saw its support among American voters rise almost as much in two weeks after Floyd’s killing than in the last two years. According to polling by Civiqs, more than 50 percent of registered voters now say they support the movement. Unlike so many times in the past, in which black people mostly marched and protested alone to demand recognition of their full humanity and citizenship, a multiracial and multigenerational protest army has taken to the streets over the last month. They’ve spread across all 50 states in places big and small, including historically all-white towns…a Monmouth University poll showed that 76 percent of Americans, and 71 percent of white Americans, believe that racial and ethnic discrimination is a “big problem” in the United States…this is high-quality data.” [ibid. Nikole Hannah-Jones NYTimes article]


John F. Kennedy June 11, 1963 televised address to the nation on Civil Rights:




1. The following quotes for this synopsis of the Civil Rights Movement, particularly of the Kennedy years, are taken from Nikole Hannah-Jones’ New York Times interactive article titled “What Is Owed” and from the article about The Civil Rights Movement found on I would call Nikole Hannah-Jones’ article a very good snapshot of Black History. To see the article in its entirety see The Wikipedia article from which I quoted significant sections from is comprehensive.

2. The quotes about the Civil Rights Movement taken from are taken from this link: .

3.The quotes about Robert F. Kennedy are taken from from this link:

4. John Lewis NYTimes Obituary:

5. The 1619 Project,” 493 pages, created by Nikole Hannah-Jones, available as a book on (online below if you have an online subscription to the NY Times).

The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative. Read all the stories.


The Three Assassinations, Killings Of John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy

& Dr. Martin Luther King Have Come Home To Roost In 2020


The twin issues of the Vietnam War and Civil Rights were tied intrinsically together as all three of these men knew, and as came out in some of the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, as he pointed to the disproportionate number of Black men who were being drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. When these three men died, the advancement of Civil Rights issues for Black people were essentially frozen in place, as far as they had progressed, as the Vietnam War under Nixon slowly progressed to its ignoble end. First, as we’ve seen, Jack Kennedy tried to get us out of the Vietnam War and end the Cold War, as well as he and Bobby Kennedy worked with Dr. Martin Luther King to push forward the Civil Rights movement, passing critical laws. Jack Kennedy was assassinated for his efforts. But it didn’t stop there, as 1968 rolled around, Bobby Kennedy started successfully running for President, a man who, along with Dr. Martin Luther King, would carry through his brother’s twin dreams of getting us out of the Vietnam War and pushing forward Civil Rights. So we see that the advances Civil Rights made under these three great men were essentially arrested in their tracks and advanced no further, with the Vietnam War effectively wiping the hard-won issues of Civil Rights from the collective memory of our nation -- putting these burning issues on a 50-year-long hold, as they seethed and simmered under the smooth and placid veneer of American society. That is, all until the collective weight of the murder of four to five Black people as a direct result of police brutality brought the unfinished business of Civil Rights to the surface, front and center again, into the collective view of the American people. I hope this puts this section of American history in proper perspective, as the first massive nationwide protest rallies are occurring across the nation for the first time since the Vietnam and Civil Rights protests of the late 1960s. Our nation is at a crucial point in it’s history, and so is the greater Body of Christ. Will we make the right decisions or not? That is the important question. Looking into the next chapter, and our sordid history in Latin America, it makes me wonder, will the forces of evil or good win out?

Recommended reading:

1. For an excellent and very well documented history about the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, one that puts literally all of the pieces together, I highly recommend James W. Douglass’ “JFK AND THE UNSPEAKABLE, WHY HE DIED AND WHY IT MATTERS”© 2008, ISBN 978-1-4391-9388-4, Touchstone, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020  

2. For an incredible book, which will make you sad and angry at the same time, a short book, 180 pages, with short chapters, be sure to purchase “THE BEAST SIDE, Living and Dying While Black in America” by D. Watkins. It is the true story of living while Black in the city of Baltimore, Maryland. If you’re white, you really don’t know what it’s like to be Black in the inner city, not until you’ve read this book. If you ask me, the Body of Christ has a looong way to go to help right these wrongs, and show proper empathy as Jesus would. You can order it off or see

3. Finally, a book-review of an incredible book that defines racism and the New Jim Crow that has taken over our Judicial and law enforcement departments across this nation, a book that describes how the Supreme Court dismantled two of our most important Amendments within the Constitution, empowering police across this nation with unConstitutional powers for racist ends, while all the while appearing to be “colorblind.” This book-review follows on the next page. Be sure to read it, it spells out very briefly what the book explains in great detail, how a new set of Jim Crow laws have quietly taken over our land and it’s Judicial system, from top to bottom. One short page will show you how important this book is.

Book Recommendation

THE NEW JIM CROW, Mass Incarceration In The Age Of Colorblindness” (10th Anniversary Edition) by Michelle Alexander--a must read to understand the problem that confronts racial justice. This book, more than all that have been written, puts all the problems of race and social justice in proper context. She shows how police departments across the nation, large and small, have been weaponized with modern military equipment to fight a trumped up “War on Drugs.” This “War on Drugs” first started under Reagan, and was energized and incentivized under Reagan by creating a huge cashflow of Federal funding going into those same police departments if they’d participate in that ‘War on Drugs’ (which mainly targeted Black people). Later on, as part of that effort, to give the police unauthorized powers of arrest, and seizure of private property, the Supreme Court was used to gut and nullify the 4th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. This was part of the creation of a new and more powerful set of Jim Crow laws that was by all appearance “colorblind,” one that did not appear racist, but was in fact very racist. Ms. Alexander outlines, step by step, the creation of a mass-incarceration system using the entire Justice Department, with Supreme Court backing, and the cooperation of nearly all our police departments, to create a very large flow of mostly Black people into those prisons, making them into felons. And as these unfortunate people were and are currently being funneled into and out of our prisons, they were and are being stripped of their rights to vote or get any kind of government assistance, effectively making this group of people into a caste of 2nd class citizens. The number of Black people who have been forced into this lower-caste of U.S. citizenship, she estimates, is over 31 million people strong at present, and growing larger every day. The book is definitive and fact-based. She outlines in great detail how this Jim Crow system was put together over the presidencies going from Ronald Reagan through Barack Obama and president Trump. This system is firmly embedded into our Judicial and police departments and prison systems, and is not about to go away. Most people do not realize what rights we have blithely handed over without realizing it to this system, which at the lowest level is the cop on the beat and in the patrol car. The book is an eye-opener, and a bit scary as the real truth dawns on you. Like the frog in the pot of water, we don’t realize the pot’s already boiling. For those who want to know the truth, it is a must read. Solution: 1. Restore the 4th & 8th Amendments to their original stated meanings. 2. Remove unConstitutional authority & power given to the police by the perversion and abrogation of the 4th & 8th Amendments (and any others). 3. End the Federal “War on Drugs” and make drug abuse a medical issue.

To order log onto amazon, you’ll find it there.

Martin Luther King’s Last Quest: “All of Us or None”

As civil rights lawyers unveiled plans to desegregate public schools, it was the poor and working-class whites who were expected to bear the burden of this profound social adjustment, even though many of them were as desperate for upward social mobility and quality education as African Americans…What lower-class whites did have was what W.E.B. Du Bois described as “the public psychological wage” paid to white workers, who depended on their status and privileges as whites to compensate for low pay and harsh working conditions…poor and working-class whites were persuaded to choose racial status interests over their common economic interests with blacks, resulting in the emergence of new caste systems that only marginally benefited whites but were devastating for African Americans.”

Real Social Justice For All, White & Black Alike, Is Needed

In retrospect, it seems clear that nothing could have been more important in the 1970s and 1980s than finding a way to create a durable interracial, bottom-up coalition for social and economic justice to ensure that another caste system did not emerge from the ashes of Jim Crow. Priority should have been given to figuring out some way for poor working-class whites to feel as though they had a stake—some tangible interest—in the nascent integrated racial order…[But] the Southern white elite, whether planters or industrialists, had successfully endeavored to make all whites think in racial rather than class terms, predictably leading whites to experience desegregation as Derrick Bell put it, as a net “loss.”

But Martin Luther King Was Calling For A Spiritual Answer

Yes, we may still manage to persuade mainstream voters in the midst of an economic crisis that we have relied too heavily on incarceration, that prisons are too expensive, and that drug use is a public health problem, not a crime. But if the movement that emerges to end mass incarceration does not meaningfully address the racial divisions and resentments that gave rise to mass incarceration, and if it fails to cultivate an ethic of genuine care, compassion, and concern for every human being—every class, race, and nationality—within our nation’s borders, including poor whites, who are often pitted against poor people of color, the collapse of mass incarceration will not mean the death of racial caste in America…This is the basic message that Martin Luther King Jr. aimed to deliver through the Poor People’s Movement back in 1968. He argued then that the time had come for racial justice advocates to shift from a civil rights to a human rights paradigm, and that the real work of movement building had only just begun. A human rights approach, he believed, would offer far greater hope for those of us determined to create a thriving, multiracial, multiethnic democracy free from racial hierarchy than the civil rights model had provided to date. It would offer a positive vision of what we can strive for—a society in which all human beings of all races are treated with dignity, and have the right to food, shelter, health care, education, and security.”…A human rights movement, King believed, held revolutionary potential. Speaking at a Southern Christian Leadership Conference staff retreat in May 1967, he told SCLC staff, who were concerned that the Civil Rights Movement had lost its steam and it’s direction, [he said], “It is necessary for us to realize that we have moved from the era of civil rights to the era of human rights.” Political reform efforts were no longer adequate to the task at hand, he said, “For the last 12 years, we have been in a reform movement…[But] after Selma and the voting rights bill, we moved into a new era, which must be an era of revolution. We must see the great distinction between a reform movement and a revolutionary movement. We are called upon to raise a certain basic question about the whole society…The significance of this cannot be overstated, for the failure to acknowledge the humanity and dignity of all persons has lurked at the root of every racial caste system. This common thread explains why, in the 1780s, the British Society for the Abolition of Slavery [headed by William Wilberforce] adopted as its official seal a woodcut of a kneeling slave above a banner that read, “AM I NOT A MAN AND A BROTHER?” That symbol was followed more than a hundred years later by signs worn around the necks of black sanitation workers during the Poor People’s Campaign answering the slave’s question with the simple statement, I AM A MAN. The fact that black men could wear the same sign today in protest of the new caste system suggests that the model of civil rights advocacy that has been employed for the past several decades is, as King predicted, inadequate to the task at hand. If we can agree that what is needed now, at this critical juncture, is not more tinkering or tokenism, but as King insisted forty years ago, a “radical restructuring of our society.” [these quotes taken from The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander, pp. 317-323, sel. paragraphs, emphasis mine throughout]

At the end of Dr. King’s life, what he was attempting to communicate and create was a revolutionary movement the core of which was first stated by the apostle Paul in Galatians 3:26-28, that being a member of the Body of Christ placed us in a special caste where there was and is no caste whatsoever, “For ye are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond [slave] nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” That is where Martin Luther King Jr. was attempting to aim the Civil Rights Movement, to a lofty spiritual highpoint, which in reality can only be achieved within the Body of Christ, by being a Christian or Messianic Jewish believer in Yeshua. This being a spiritual condition brought on by the indwelling Holy Spirit, I do not personally believe it is attainable by mankind on his own without God. The coming future Kingdom of God at Jesus Christ’s return will bring these lofty conditions to earth, during the Millennial Kingdom of God. But it is a condition we should find within our churches, if those churches are truly spiritually healthy. Being a racist, or supporting any political party of man’s governments on earth which is racist, is anathema to being a Christian and the work of the Holy Spirit within that believer in Jesus. It is better not to vote at all than go down that road. Sadly, many that call themselves Evangelical Christians have gone down that road, and that makes me question the veracity of their Christianity. “Christian, without empathy and understanding, how can you reach and witness to a people?”

Continue to Chapter 4


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