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Letter to Senator Hart Expressing His Views on Pending Civil Rights Legislation.

February 19, 1968

Dear Phil:

Again this week, the Senate of the United States is a crucial arena for human rights.

The issue is whether we will continue to move toward equality as a fact, as well as an ideal, in America.

We have made extraordinary progress in the past decade. Nevertheless equal justice is clearly not a reality for millions of Americans today. The civil rights legislation now pending before the Senate--about which you have asked my views--will not in itself achieve equality for every citizen; but it is a vital step along the way. Both conscience and reason insist that it be passed.

In one title of the pending legislation, we seek new and clear authority to punish those who would use violence and intimidation to prevent others from exercising the rights of American citizenship:

--the right to vote,

--to go to school,

--to obtain a job,

--to serve as a juror,

--and to use public facilities.

There should be no question about the exercise of these fundamental rights. There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that their exercise is protected by law against those who would use force to deny them.

Pending legislation before the Senate also seeks. to ensure that every American has the opportunity to provide a decent home for his family. Segregation in housing--the product of long-standing discriminatory real estate practices--has compounded the Nation's urban problem. Minorities have been artificially compressed into ghettoes where unemployment and ignorance are rampant, where human tragedies and crime abound, and where city administrations are burdened with rising social costs and falling tax revenues. Fair housing practices--backed by meaningful Federal laws that apply to every section of the country--are essential if we are to relieve the crisis in our cities.

From every moral and practical standpoint, these measures are necessary. The wrongs they address are urgently in need of redress. Together with the other measures I have recommended to combat discrimination-particularly in the fields of employment and jury selection--they respond to the elemental demands of equal justice in America. They should be adopted without delay.



[Honorable Philip A. Hart, United States Senate, Washington, D.C.]

Note: The Civil Rights Act of 1968 was approved by the President on April 11, 1968 (see Item 195).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter to Senator Hart Expressing His Views on Pending Civil Rights Legislation. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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