I just finished watching Maya Angelou's moving tribute to Fannie Lou Hamer and the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party--the four surviving members of the MFDP delegation were honored at the convention.
Times change, of course: in the midst of the 1964 Atlantic City convention, Hubert Humphrey promised that the administration would not allow an"illiterate Negro woman" to hijack the gathering, and Lyndon Johnson hastily scheduled a press appearance during Fannie Lou Hamer's testimomy to the Platform Committee--a clip of which the convention heard tonight--to prompt the networks to switch attention to the White House. The press throught that the President was about to announce his vice-presidential selection; instead, LBJ issued a routine statement about Vietnam.
For a sense of how the MFDP issue vexed Johnson, take a listen to the clips below (each is under 2 minutes), four excerpts of a conversation between Johnson and Georgia governor Carl Sanders, perhaps the leading Southern moderate officeholder of 1964. Johnson had arranged for a" compromise" under which the segregated Mississippi regular delegation would be seated, and two members of the MFDP would be seated as"honorary" at-large delegates. Famer announced that the MFDP didn't come to Atlantic City (the"original Bay of Pigs," said one press wag) to"sit at the back of the bus." But even the moderate Sanders throught that LBJ had gone too far in the compromise.
We pick up the conversation several minutes in, after Sanders' complaint about the compromise plan. Clip 1
Sanders attempts to make a legalistic argument against seating the MFDP; Johnson shows rare (private) emotion, suggesting the depth of his commitment to civil rights. Clip 2
Fed up with Sanders' recalcitrance, the President launches into a series of sarcastic barbs against the Mississippi white Democrats. Clip 3
Sanders then protests that the Mississippi and Alabama delegations are complaining about having to take a loyalty oath to the party's nominee. The"John" in the call is John Connally, Texas governor. Clip 4