John F. Kennedy’s ascendancy to the White House in 1960 generated hope among blacks that the federal government would lend support to the burgeoning civil rights movement. Kennedy, though, took a somewhat moderate stance on racial issues during the first part of his presidency. By 1963, however, pressure for racial equality was mounting, particularly in Alabama, where violent confrontations between demonstrators and police in Birmingham were gaining national attention. At the same time, the state’s governor, George Wallace, was making headlines as he attempted to defy the...
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