“IT took a president to get it done.”





With those words, Senator Hillary Clinton cracked open a door and a dust-up blew in. She was referring to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and although she set her remarks in a historical continuum that took in three presidents as well as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., her critics suggested that she had favored President Lyndon B. Johnson’s role over Dr. King’s.

But in the several weeks since, history books have been cracked, archives searched. And Americans have been reminded that President Johnson and Dr. King worked in tandem not only on the Civil Rights Act, but on the Voting Rights Act that came the next year. The following transcription is of an excerpt from a telephone call the president made to Dr. King on Jan. 15, 1965, two months before the Selma-to-Montgomery march, seven months before the Voting Rights Act was signed into law. The president made the call from his ranch in Johnson City, Tex. (and Dr. King was unaware of the taping). The two were discussing strategy before the president submitted his proposal to Congress.

KC Johnson, a professor of history at Brooklyn College, provided the tape to the Voting Rights and Citizenship Web site and calendar project of the CUNY/New York Times Knowledge Network. Jay Hershenson, senior project director and a vice chancellor at the City University of New York, described the conversation as “a wonderful example of what some observers of politics call ‘inside-outside’ — when the protester works with those in authority who are sympathetic, behind the scenes, to achieve the desired goal and where those in authority, who are sympathetic, work with the protester on tactics that they believe would be helpful to the cause.”

[Click on the SOURCE link to read the transcript.]

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