Leaders & Controversies

Transcript: Source5

An extract from President Kennedy’s message on civil rights, released on 19 June 1963, and a British government summary of the message
(Catalogue ref: FO 371/168484)

Source 5a

Following is the text of Kennedy’s message on Civil Rights and Job Opportunities which was submitted to the United States Congress today.

Last week I addressed to the American people an appeal to conscience, a request for their cooperation in meeting the growing moral crisis in American race relations, I warned of "a rising tide of discontent that threatens the public safety" in many parts of the country. I emphasized that "the events in Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased the cries for equality that no city or State or legislative body can prudently choose to ignore them. "It is a time to act", I said, "in the Congress, in State and local legislative bodies and, above all, in all of our daily lives".

Source 5b

President Kennedy’s Message to Congress on Civil Rights

On Wednesday, June 19, President Kennedy at last sent to Congress the message on Civil Rights that has been awaited so eagerly since it became apparent that, if catastrophe is to be avoided, the Administration must adopt a more positive attitude towards racial problems.

2. The new message calls for legislative action, preferably in the form of one omnibus bill to be called ‘The Civil Rights Act 1963’ covering the following five major areas:

I - The President asks for a guarantee barring racial discrimination in all hotels, restaurants, cinemas, stores, sports arenas, and other public facilities.

II - He asks that the Attorney General should be given authority to initiate legal proceedings against Public School Boards or Public Institutes of higher education, where complaints are received that individuals who are unable, for economic or other treasons, to initiate action themselves, are being denied equal protection of the laws by segregated schools or Colleges; also he asks that technical or financial assistance be made available to school districts encountering special difficulties because of the change over to a de-segregation system.

III - He is tackling the problems of unemployment and lack of skills, both of which are particularly serious for Negroes. He asks for extra money to expand the vocational training and public works programmes; he appeals for greater efforts to eliminate racial discrimination from hiring practices of Federal Departments and Agencies; he calls upon leaders of the Unions to end discrimination in their membership policies.

IV - He announces his intention of establishing a Community Relations Service to help bi-racial committees to work towards voluntary settlement of segregation issues.

V - He asks that Federal funds should be withheld from any programme or activity in which racial discrimination occurs.