What enabled the passage of meaningful civil rights legislation in the mid 1960's and how much real change did those laws bring about?
As the previous post alluded, a convergence of many factors resulted in the passage of Civil Right Legislation in the 1960s. Social activism through the Civil Rights Movement played a very large role in this process. The work and actions of leaders like King, Malcolm X, SNCC, and other individuals/ groups started raising awareness of the challenges of professing freedom but practicing racism. This level of awareness was also articulated through the beliefs and mythology of President Kennedy, and when he died, passage of Civil Rights Legislation became morphed with the fulfillment of his legacy. Student activism, which stressed liberalzed notions of expanding narrative based on class, gender, sexual orientation, and artistic reality, also focused on race, as well. President Johnson's vision in his inaugural address made the passage of Civil Rights Legislation both a reality of this convergence and the realization of it.
Main things that enabled this:
- Anti-racist rhetoric of World War II -- helped to promote the idea that America should not be racist the way the Nazis were.
- Cold War. The US needed to convince the African and Asian nations that the US was on their side. This was hard to do when the US had racist laws on the books.
- Brown v. Board of Education. This put into law the idea that segregation should not be legal (even though it only actually prohibited it in schools).
- All of these contributed to the main factor, which was the push by (mainly black) activists to get civil rights legislation passed.
- LBJ -- for whatever reason, he tried hard to pass civil rights legislation even though it hurt him and it hurt the Democratic Party for years to come (arguably up to the present).