Immediate impressions of the March

From Boston and Washington, DC, the educational radio network continues its coverage of today's historical civil rights demonstration with a panel discussion of the implications of the great March. Our guests in Washington, DC are Haywood Burns and William Higgs. In Boston, William Goldsmith and moderator Geoffrey Godsell.
Haywood Burns is the author of the Voices of the Negro Protest in America, to be published in September by the Oxford University Press. William Higgs is a civil right consultant, a representative of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee and the leadership conference on civil rights and has worked specifically in the fields of southern civil rights and voting legislation. William Goldsmith is an Assistant Professor of politics at Brandeis University.
Your moderator, Geoffrey Godsell, is editorial writer for The Christian Science Monitor. Now, Mr. Godsell.
First of all, I'd like to say good evening to the two panelists in Washington, DC who had an advantage over the two of us here in Boston in, I assume, seeing much of what went on in Washington today. I thought I'd begin by asking each of the three panelists in turn what their impression was of what they saw. We'll get onto the future later. I thought I'd begin with Mr. Burns. What did you think about what you saw today Mr. Burns?
I think that the demonstration today as Martin Luther King said is the most significant demonstration for freedom in the history of the United States. I was impressed not only by the sheer numbers that were involved, because the numbers did exceed the estimates that most of the major newspapers gave. We had well over 200,000 people participating and demonstrating for freedom today. Not only because of the numbers but I think because of the way in which the demonstration was conducted.
Of the decorum, solemnity but at the same time we had militants, which was befitting of the situation. I think that the demonstration was a high success because of these things. To have 200,000 people involved in a demonstration is a job which requires logistics of gigantic proportions. To have carried it off so successfully without any major mishap I think was something we can say was a feather in the cap of the organizers of this particular demonstration.
Mr. Higgs, would you like to say what you felt about what you saw?
Yes, I certainly would. We saw a great thing today. What Mr. Burns has said is just as true as anything ever could be. But something that most people I'm afraid did not notice too much was the articulation perhaps of the aims of the march. There was some conflict in them in terms of what sort of legislation should be asked for, how strong it should be, and whether or not there was agreement that the President's bill was sufficient.
Most people are probably not aware that the original speech prepared by Mr. John Lewis, chairman of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee was pretty strongly censored. So that the speech he gave today, even though as the Evening Star says is the strongest one of all, was very mild compared to the original one. That original one would have strongly condemned the President's proposed bill as being too little too late and totally inadequate.
Before I turn to Professor Goldsmith, I'd just like to ask one simple question. Who censored it?
Well, my understanding is that this was done by Archbishop O'Boyle in Washington, had a hand in doing this. Also Reverend Carson Blake, the acting chairman of the commission on race of the national council of churches. I think there were others who concurred in and to a degree assisted here. Of course, this is I think a great tragedy. I think Mr. Lewis had a right to speak and to say what he felt. But unfortunately this was not the case.
We'll probably come back to that later. Now I'd like to ask Professor Goldsmith who is with me here in Washington and who saw what he saw on television, not live as you did, what his impressions were.
I think the big difference is that I share with a good many of the radio audience the capacity as a listener and a viewer of today's proceedings through the mass media. I was at home. Even though I'm a professor and have to do a little work in the course of the day, I was able to view most of the proceedings. Although, I wanted to remark on that.
From what I could gather, and I'm not on absolutely certain grounds here because I flip back the programs from one network to another while they were covering them in the morning. It seemed to me, as far as I could ascertain, that only one Boston channel carried the proceedings for the length of two or three hours this afternoon. I find that was very regrettable. All three stations came in strong in the morning.
It was to be expected in this kind of event of such national importance that the public spirit and public understanding of radio and television stations in this area would have found it incumbent upon them to carry the proceedings. To my knowledge, as soon as it was discovered that one was going to do this, the other two signed out. I find this is rather regrettable.
I share with Mr. Burns and Mr. Higgs the feeling that this was a very impressive event, an event that will go down in the history books, and an event that all Americans should have at least had an opportunity of seeing. It was certainly an event as important as some of the rocket satellite launchings at Cape Canaveral, which were carried by all of the stations in the area. I find it regrettable.
As to the March itself, as a viewer, I came rather as a skeptic I might say. One generally and very strongly in spirit with the objectives but with something of a feeling that a March on Washington at this time and a demonstration of this kind might tend to reach a peak of organization and effort before the bill that Mr. Higgs was discussing earlier actually reaches the Senate and the House floor.
My early skepticism about the advantages of pouring all of this energy, all of this organization into the demonstration today might have drawn somewhat from the efforts that could be later directed toward the passage of the bill itself. I don't feel that way tonight because I feel after viewing this demonstration today, the magnificent turnout and spirit that characterized all of it that perhaps I was little lacking in foresight. As a symbolic demonstration of Americans, both Negroes and whites, of their determination to fight through on these matters was magnificently displayed today.
Before I ask another question, I'd like to ask both Mr. Burns and Mr. Higgs if they have any comments they'd like to make on what Professor Goldsmith has just said about the TV coverage here in Boston, for example and whether that might be indicative of something in white reaction or in white thinking. I assume the decision not to continue carrying this on TV was made by whites. Mr. Burns.
I think it is highly regrettable that greater coverage wasn't given in Boston and in other places in the United States because, as I said before, I think the significance of this demonstration cannot be underestimated. I would totally concur with what Professor Goldsmith has said with regard to this.
While I am on the matter of what did go on down here in Washington today and what Mr. Higgs and I witnessed, I'm sure he didn't mean to leave us with the impression that the demands which were made by the civil rights leaders were not concrete demands and that there weren't definite things that they were asking for. I personally do not have any inside information about prior censorship of Mr. Lewis' speech or any dissention or disagreement about points he might have wished to have made.
I think one of the many significant things we can draw out of this demonstration is the way in which so many different groups, these ten major civil rights groups and church groups in the country have come together. There is so much unanimity among them that they can put out seven or eight very basic, concrete things that they're asking for. These were spelled out to the 200,000 people who were here in Washington today to the rest of the people in the United States and indeed to the people of the world.
When Bayard Rustin was asked by A. Philip Randolph to come forward and put these separate planks as it were to the people, there was nothing very nebulous about it at all. He said civil rights legislation including housing, public accommodation, voting, and schools, of course he didn't spell out any bill. The purpose of these groups isn't to draft a bill. I think what they're shooting for was quite obvious. This was a demonstration to show the dissatisfaction of the people with any filibuster or compromise that might arise over civil rights legislation that is under consideration.
No federal money and programs in which discrimination takes place is another point they raised today. I'm just saying there were very definite concrete things including something as concrete as a $2.00 minimum wage. We haven't talked very much about that because the move today was both for freedom and jobs. I don't think we should be left with the impression that there wasn't a good deal of concrete statements made about what people were shooting for down here today.
Mr. Higgs.
Of course, the point of my remarks was not whether or not there had been concrete proposals. Certainly there have been. The point that I was making is that there has been definite censorship of a position that should be heard, at least in my view.
A position that would point out and say that the President of the United States presently in office, President Kennedy, has consistently appointed racist federal judges to the district courts and to the court of appeals. The first circuit in the hard-core states of the Deep South, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana to be greatly contrasted with the appointments of his predecessor, President Eisenhower.
The point is that with these judges sitting, most any civil rights legislation, regardless of how strong, to a degree, will largely be ineffective. Unless something is done about the judge problem, then strong civil rights legislation may just be words on paper, a fraud on the Negro. I might add that over one-third of the Negro population of this country are the most deprived. The most oppressed one-third lives within the jurisdiction of the first circuit court of appeals, the states of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
I'll address my next question to Professor Goldsmith. I'd like your comments on it and on his answer. It seems to me that when the March on Washington was first proposed by Mr. Randolph, that proposal was made within the context of a general feeling of revoke among the Negroes across the country. The nature of that initiative got changed somewhat in the process when it got the blessing of the President and when other leaders in positions of authority gave it their blessing.
Would you agree with that assessment? Do you feel that from the time the proposal was made until the March took place today there was in some way a change voluntarily or involuntarily of purpose in the demonstration?
I'm not sure that I share your attitude or your reaction to it. I don't think the March came about as any considered decision on the part of the civil rights leaders. I think it was something in the nature of a brush fire that was articulated by Philip Randolph and others in speeches and press releases. It caught on.
Pretty soon, as someone said in either covering the meeting today or in one of the speeches, the leaders were following the masses or the membership of the organizations and they went along. In some cases, somewhat reluctantly.
But as for the character of the feeling, I'm not so sure there was a change, because initially the thrust of the feeling for demonstration was to demand and support the civil rights bill. I don't find that has changed. There isn't any 100 percent agreement on the part of all the leaders with respect to the bill and the activity of the President. But in effect, I think we have to understand.
Here I find myself in somewhat disagreement with my old friend Mr. Higgs. What transpired this spring, the demonstrations and the culmination of several years of effort, of aggressive non-violent tactics on the part of the civil rights organizations, in effect they won a significant victory in moving the national administration to come out and support a strong civil rights bill. That's something they had not done and from all indications were not going to do.
There were a lot of reasons why they weren't. There may certainly have not been reasons they didn't support these objectives or measures. But for a range of political considerations, the range of bills that were before them, the foreign problems, tax bills, et cetera, they decided to push the civil rights bill back.
Now, the activity in Birmingham and on the streets this late spring and early summer forced the administration to change plans very dramatically and very radically. That seems to me to be a signal victory, first of all, on the part of the organizations. They achieved this objective. They were the ones that were responsible. The work done by the civil rights organizations and the people that went along in conducting these struggles achieved a very important initial objective. They got the national administration publicly and wholeheartedly to support a strong civil rights bill.
The planning of the ideas, the early concepts of the March was then to get behind the administration and those other leaders in Congress who supported the bill and build a veritable fire under the legislature so it would be clear that there was strong grassroots support. It seems to me that didn't change. What might have changed was somewhat perhaps the tone of the alignment. Individuals, groups, and organizations were brought in to enlarge the spectrum of support.
I don't find this a bad thing at all. I think in terms of the legislative struggle that we’re facing this fall, it was necessary. It is necessary to build a rather large and strong alignment and support of the legislation. This was done.
As far as prior censorship is concerned, it was announced over the television stations on a number of occasions, the incident that Mr. Higgs described. I just want to make this distinction. This was not some officials or some power outside the people conducting this demonstration that censored the speech.
It was thought by those who were counseling together on these measures that it would be to the advantage of their objectives to broaden the spectrum of the groups that were participating in this. They brought together some militant groups and some other groups that were not so militant. The basis of bringing groups like this together is that one has to compromise to a certain extent because one has to find some common area of agreement. They found that common area of agreement apparently.
Mr. Lewis indicated that he wanted to deviate from that. It was apparently the decision of the group that it was more important for them to hold the unity of all of the groups that were gathered together in support of the common objectives. This was more important than allowing Mr. Lewis the full freedom of his position. I don't think they wanted to censor Mr. Lewis as an individual from his point of view. This was a common objective and they shared certain common proposals. This is what the effect of this was. I'm sure Bill wants to come back on that.

Controversy surrounding the edits to the John Lewis speech

Mr. Higgs.
I'd like to very much, Bill. I have the speech here that was not given. I think, really, the thrust is somewhat different that what perhaps has been given over the press. Let me read one paragraph from it that was deleted from this speech.
Mr. Lewis would have said, "Moreover we have learned, and you should know, since we are here for jobs and freedom, that within the past ten days, a spokesman for the administration appeared in secret session before the committee that is writing the civil rights bill and opposed and has almost killed a provision that would have guaranteed in voting suits for the first time a fair federal district judge. And I might add, this administration's bill, or any other civil rights bill, as the 1960 Civil Rights Act will be totally worthless when administered by racist judges, so many of whom have been consistently appointed by President Kennedy."
I think these comments are more in line with factual statements, things that people interested in civil rights and the passage of an effective bill should be aware of. There were other things in the speech, which did strongly criticize the federal government and the present administration. I think these people should have the right, SNCC, Mr. Lewis, to express these things. I speak as one who is most interested in freedom of speech this part of our constitution that we're trying to defend.
As to the administration having a strong civil rights bill, even Roy Wilkins classed it as a very moderate bill and even if passed as it is, I think he even used the word pap. Frankly, these comments can well be made in many areas. The administration bill in no way deals with the problem of police brutality. Perhaps the most pressing problem of all that came out of Birmingham and the demonstrations, tremendous abuse of the police, the judicial process and the power of the state in the south. Nothing is done about this.
The area of voting, nothing is done about the racist judges, which is a real problem. Of course, when this issue is brought up, it means that the administration is going to have to defend their appointments. They can't do it. That's the clear issue. There are other very weak points in the bill. There should be a strong Title 3 to give the internal general injunctive power, to enjoin the use of the southern police to break up demonstrations, to arrest people in their homes, to do all matter of things to them. None of these guarantees that.
Professor Goldsmith I think wants to come back just for a moment before I turn to Mr. Burns. Professor Goldsmith.
Yes, I'd like to say on this question again of prior censorship, I don't think in this discussion we can adequately deal with all the substantive points with respect to the bill. Although we want to get around to some of them later. The point I was making, and I certainly don't want to be interpreted as feeling that John Lewis or anybody else should not have a right and a public forum to state their views.
I think it is the right of an organization and particularly a group of organizations that get together to support a march such as the Washington March to maintain the right among themselves to decide precisely what points, what deviations. There are a lot of individuals who would have liked to have become part and a lot of organizations who would have liked to have become part.
Because of the extreme position they articulated either to the left or to the right, the committee, the organizations together made decisions about these groups. Now apparently they made a decision about Mr. Lewis. I certainly don't want to see that Mr. Lewis' position is not stated. But, I would defend the right of the committee and the organizations today to out vote Mr. Lewis if they felt that his decision to say certain things in his speeches would be detrimental to the efforts and objectives of the total endeavor. That's all.
Mr. Burns.
This is Haywood Burns in Washington. Along those lines, I would have to say that the appointment by President Kennedy of obviously racist judges in the south is something that has distressed me too.
I do feel more in sympathy with Professor Goldsmith's position with regard to the censorship of Lewis' speech. As he has pointed out, there were several compromises that were necessary to reach an area of general agreement so that these groups could come together and effectively protest and have this demonstration in the first place. SNCC would not be the only group who was asked to leave out perhaps some elements of their program or some positions which they felt were essential just for the purpose of this particular demonstration.
There is a wide spectrum from the Urban League all the way over to SNCC perhaps and different approaches used. Compromise was something that was agreed upon prior. Deviation from this general area that they had decided upon perhaps would have been detrimental to the specific aims of this particular demonstration.
I would like to raise the question of white participation in the March. Before I get on to the general question, I'd like to ask Mr. Burns whether he thinks the effect might be created among some Negroes, particularly the more militant and radical ones, that this censoring as we call it or this compromising on the part of Mr. Lewis might be used by more militant and radical Negroes to say there you are again. The moment you have whites involved in things, they water things down.
Let me speak just one moment. I think it would be inaccurate to say that Mr. Lewis this is Mr. Higgs, compromised here. I think the compromise did take place. To say that it was particularly willing on Mr. Lewis' part I think would be inaccurate. Pardon for letting me interrupt you.
I said we didn't wish to imply that.
On the question of the reaction of more militant factions of the Negro protest groups to so called censorship, of this particular speech certainly they might feel and use this as another example of what happens when you have interracial leadership with many more radical racists groups and the spectrum field is particular a Negro and solely, uniquely a Negro cause.
I think the fact that Minister Malcolm X, for example, black Muslims could say the people who are involved in this march were stooges of the government. This is indicative of the type of position that more militant groups can take from something like this. That was a pretty extreme statement to say that all 200,000 of these people happen to be government stooges.
Something much more concrete as censorship of a particular position, and in this case a particular militant position, is something in which I think they would quite likely latch onto and use in their own particular interpretation of the situation here in America.
I think one could take it as a foregone conclusion that Muslims would say something like that. Are there not also more militant and radical Negroes who don't take what seems to many such an irrational position as the Muslims in their proposals for solving this problem who might say the same thing?
Yes, I'm sure there are many who feel that way. As I say, I personally am in agreement with Mr. Lewis' position with regard to criticizing the present administration for many of their appointments made in the judiciary in the south. My only statement with regard to this particular act today was that the general area of agreement of the goals of the March had been decided upon.
Different groups were asked to delete different phases of their particular program in order to have this general area of agreement pushed forth. For instance, groups which believe in civil disobedience and practice this as an integral part of their program were asked to dispense with this in any way today in the demonstration.
Let me add here. I think something needs to be cleared up. This is Mr. Higgs. First of all, I think Mr. Lewis' speech was the only one in which there was any censorship contemplated. Secondly, Dr. King, after a march meeting in New York, came out for a national police force to carry out civil rights in the south. This to most people's mind is the most extreme thing possible yet there was no criticism, to my knowledge, directly to Dr. King of this comment.
He didn't make the comment at the meeting today.
He made the comment, as I understand it, coming out of the meeting. It was in the context of a march meeting. I just raise these points. Secondly, I think it's awfully important to understand that these comments of Mr. Lewis generally fell in one category. They were comments criticizing in particularly the present administration and factually pointing out these particular areas. I think this makes a difference.
Let me just say this. I don't want it to be assumed here that I'm defending the censorship of Mr. Lewis. As a matter of fact on a practical basis, I think it would have been just as wise, although I don't share all his views, to allow him to make his statement and if any of the other members of the group felt that it was out of line to attempt to correct it.
What I was simply attempting to state was I think it was the proper function of the committee to decide who, what and where they were going to march, what groups were going to say, and what groups were going to participate. This is what they did.
I wonder whether I could respond to your question. Namely, was the possible general watering down of the demonstration a result of the participation of whites. We'd have to know a great deal more about this particular incident for example to lay it entirely at the foot of the white organizations.
It's very possible that the Urban League or other organizations participating felt this strongly and perhaps some of the church organizations that have been associated with it. It would seem to me that this kind of process where divergent elements come together and agree on certain common things is part of the political process. It need not be connected with a white, Negro association but connected with the fact that many of the individuals and groups are quite sincerely concerned with achieving some kind of practical legislative objectives in that area, a great deal of compromise.
You don't write the best possible bill or the most ideal bill if you want to get a bill passed. It seems to me that I have grave reservations about the administration bill. I would hope that some of the strong civil rights supporters are going to fight for a much stronger bill once it gets reported out on the floor. It is important and it can't be lost sight of that this legislation is significant legislation. It is important. It's very necessary that it be supported.

Problems with existing civil rights legislation

Before we go on with the conversation, I'd like to remind our listeners that they are listening to a panel discussion of the implications of the freedom march. Our panelists in Washington, DC are William Higgs, a civil rights consultant and a specialist in the field of southern civil rights and voter registration. Haywood Burns, author of The Voices of Negro Protest in America to be published in September by the Oxford University Press.
Here with me in Boston, William Goldsmith, assistant professor of politics at Brandeis University. I am Geoffrey Godsell, editorial writer of The Christian Science Monitor. One of the panelists in Washington was about to say something when I interrupted him. Mr. Higgs.
Yes, I would like to reply to a couple of points that Mr. Goldsmith has made. Being here of course, there is some advantage in terms of being here on the scene, at least in terms of one of the points he made. However, first I would like to reply to the idea of getting a bill passed. I think we're going to get a bill passed. I think we're going to get a bill. The question is what kind of a bill. If it's a type of bill that was enacted in 1960, we may as well close our bags and go home and let the Congress get a few extra months of rest, peace and quiet.
I quite agree.
The 1960 Voting Rights Act, which created so much steam and so many people took so much credit for, and all this sort of thing, bipartisan credit I think. As a matter of fact, under that Voting Rights Act, no federal voting referee has ever been appointed. In other words, the act has by and large been useless. It's just a piece of paper. We cannot have another just a piece of paper. I might add that the key and the reason why this act was not effective was because of the racist federal district judges. You could not do anything about them. This is a problem that SNCC feels, that the southern movements feel more acutely because they have to face these people. It was a Kennedy appointee. Judge West granted that injunction in Louisiana against CORE to stop those things. We have a whole bunch of these judges that are just completely devastating to the civil rights movement in the south. I think the country has got to understand that something has to be done about these racist judges who ride roughshod over the constitutional rights of the Negro of the south. Not only don't they grant him his rights, they grant petitions for injunctions to the white police and other authorities to prevent the Negro protest movement as did Judge West.
Mr. Burns, on the general question of the likelihood of the passage of the legislation before Congress in its present form. Do you feel that the march has had any affect upon that in one way or another?
The effect which it will have ultimately on congressmen and how they'll finally vote is something that is a little bit too far into the future to give any kind of exact inclination as to how they will vote, of course. The number of congressmen who showed up today for the demonstration, I found quite impressive.
I think the effect of today's demonstration, over and above what it will do directly to influence congressmen and how they vote, should be calculated from the extent to which it has influenced the rest of the country. This will bring us back once again to what we had to say earlier in the program about the coverage of today's demonstration. But, if it is covered at all in any parts of the country, which I'm sure it will be, I'm sure it will serve a very effective end in arousing both the conscious and the consciousness of the people of the country to this problem.
Of course, the demonstrations all along since April haven't been doing this. I think just looking at films of what I saw with my own eyes today of 200,000 people clogging the streets of Constitution and Independence Avenue, marching for freedom and singing these songs, I think, will at least make people who haven't taken a second thought about this whole situation to do so.
Part of this whole idea of demonstration is a moral challenge. A challenge to make Americans be what they say they are already, daring them to be so. I think this is one area in which we can look to the demonstration and calculate its effects upon the country.
I'd like to ask all three members of the panel whether they think the March is going to have some effect upon white opinion, which is not already converted as it were. Some of you may have seen the result of the latest Gallup poll on this question in the papers this morning. That shows that 63 percent of the population were unfavorable to the March.
The article by Dr. Gallup quotes people, which would indicate that many whites think that Negroes are going ahead too hard and too fast. There is some suggestion that the March has strengthened that feeling among whites. Professor Goldsmith.
I'm disappointed that the Gallup poll would come up with this statistic with respect to attitudes. I don't share them myself. I have a feeling that when the issues, if they ever do get articulated, get spelled out, the basic issues involved in the overall legislative objectives of the civil rights organizations, that this kind of reaction will be among the general population will be tempered.
I think there is strong consensus for strong legislative action, not action that is going to solve every aspect of the civil rights problem, but activity that is going to in a variety of key and significant areas provide some legal, peaceful, and lawful solutions to existing problems. It seems to me that when the discussion gets on this legislative level that a tremendous job has to be done in articulating the substance of these bills.
I quite agree with my friend Mr. Higgs that this is a major area of discussion. There has to be. There doesn't seem to be much indication of great preparation on the part of the mass media network for this kind of public dialogue. Many of us are working very hard for its development. When it does develop, I envisage substantially far greater consensus and support of the American people behind such objectives.
Some of you may have watched a discussion program on the National Education Television four or six weeks ago between five of the principal civil rights leaders. They were all Negroes. There seemed to be a consensus there that if the President's legislation were put to a referendum on whites in this country, it would be defeated by a majority of two-to-one, which is rather a chastening thought. How do you feel about that Professor Goldsmith?
I didn't see all of those programs. I don't tend to agree with them if that was their reaction. I was out of the country at the time and I didn't observe that.
Mr. Higgs, do you have anything to say about that?
I've been accumulating a heck of a lot of things to say on these points. Of course, this happens to be my area. My specialty is in the legislation and the effort here. Let me just make these point very quickly because I think the audience of educational radio would be most interested in some of these distinctions.
First, as to the factual question raised earlier as to the decision on the censorship. It's my understanding that the white, or in particular, the church groups, led this fight. The Negro groups would have been perfectly willing for Mr. Lewis to make the statement.
Secondly, at the leadership conference on civil rights, I understand from reading the papers today that things are said by different people participating there to the press. I think it should be mentioned. When it was suggested to the White House representative at the leadership conference, Mr. Donahue, that President Kennedy should praise some Republican efforts.
Mr. Donahue made the remark that this administration is in power and it intends to take all the credit for the bill. Now this sort of partisan slant in my view is not conducive to passing a strong civil rights bill. I think it should be recognized here and now that the Grand Old Party has been making and can make some tremendous contributions to a very effective civil rights bill.
It is true that President Kennedy has introduced the bill and that there is much in it. It is probably the most comprehensive bill so introduced. But, the Republicans have a definite and a powerful role.
Thirdly, I think that we should recognize that people all over the country are going to object more to such things as public accommodations, employment, and particularly housing as they affect the northern areas. These civil rights questions are the more sophisticated ones.
The pure civil rights questions, as I like to call them, such as voting and police brutality are to a degree seldom problems. You can get a Gallup poll or Louis Harris poll showing that 95% of the people in the country are in favor of strong voting and anti-police brutality legislation. I think this should be taken advantage of. I think we should recognize these distinctions.
Thirdly, I think we should recognize the fantastically large role played by organized labor in the civil rights lobbying at the present time. I understand the United Auto Workers largely or totally are financing the leadership conference on civil rights. The effective steering committee, as I understand it, seems to be largely labor leaders. I think these things should be known. I think they're relevant. Labor has been an enormous friend of civil rights.
But, I do think these are some issues. They frequently do not seem to be as attuned to the problems of the southern Negro. Half of the Negroes in this country, the most oppressed, are in the south. This bill frankly offers very little for them as I see it. There is nothing on police brutality for example.

Addessing white opinions of the civil rights movement

Are you suggesting Mr. Higgs that it might be wiser or better to emphasize those areas about which you have spoken, such as voting rights, the appointment of judges, and police behavior in the civil rights bill? And less emphasis on those parts of the bill which affect public accommodation for example?
I'm merely making the point that some strong effort should be made on these areas that I've mentioned on which there is such great national consensus. Frankly, the effort here has been little or absolutely none on the part of the leadership conference people.
Now they have pushed to some slight degree for a broad Title Three. This is helpful. Giving the Attorney General across the board powers. Some of this would help him to bring injunctions against police abuses and excesses. This is about the extent of it.
I do have one further brief comment. This is only coverage of the bill. Now most people in this country think that there is just one civil rights bill, that's the President's bill. There is a Republican bill that has some significant new things in it, different things.
There is a particular bill, the Kastenmeier bill, introduced by congressman Kastenmeier of Wisconsin, which is about twice as long as the administration bill and many times stronger. It even has a table of contents to it.
These particular bills should be discussed. I believe at the present time, ABC is going to have a program coming up next week on the bill. I called the producer of that show and I sincerely hope, though I'm not all convinced, that he will give a spokesman on behalf of a bill that is as strong as the Kastenmeier bill a chance to explain what a really strong bill is like.
I think the public in line with what Professor Goldsmith has so rightly said needs to begin to know what a bill is. A civil rights bill is just not a civil rights bill. It can be very weak or very strong.
Professor Goldsmith.
Several things occurred to me in the last few minutes. Getting back to the meeting today for a moment, I was impressed with a speech that was made by Walter Reuther. The general tone of the meeting where I think a number of the speakers such as Phil Randolph, Martin Luther King and others successfully wove together a pattern of economic, social and political objectives.
There was a strong emphasis on jobs and economic objectives. I think this is important. The labor movement here has a very significant role to play, one that several of the larger unions have been playing far more effectively than the movement as a whole. For example, the AFL-CIO at their annual board meeting several weeks ago refused to endorse the march.
Walter Reuther was so disgusted with the mealy mouth statement that they finally put out that he said it was so weak that it probably died on the way to the mimeograph machine. The role of labor is critical. I think more and more if we are able, which I think that's the problem.
Bill has put his finger on it. If we are able to galvanize the kind of public discussion that he's talking about, a stronger appeal can be made to labor groups and labor organizations, who again in the same way as the civil rights movement has gone, can push their leadership into stronger and more aggressive positions than they've been willing to go.
Getting back to the larger issue of the problems involved in public discussion, here again I'm completely in agreement with Mr. Higgs in the sense that it is terribly important that a detailed, careful analysis and thorough going public discussion of all the legislative facets of a possible bill. It's true, there isn't any one bill at the moment.
There are three different committees of the United States Congress. I think one is finally wound up its work in the House. There are three different committees considering a variety of different bills. They will come to some determination we hope in the next few weeks. Then those bills will be reported out on the floor. We can expect prolonged congressional discussion.
If you look back to the Civil Rights Bill of 1957 and the Civil Rights Bill of 1960, there were quite a good number of us who didn't throw our hats in the air with glee at the passage of these bills. They were weak bills to start with. In their legislative journey through the committees and through the various manipulations on the floor of Congress, they were watered down and very badly massacred, that is probably a proper word for it.
The way to at least attempt to prevent this kind of thing, it seems to me, is to force out, to galvanize some basic public discussion on these measures and not simply on the vague and very general idea of civil rights and what it means in the south and in the north. What they mean in terms of specific, detailed legislative objectives.
We've had some experience with that in the last few weeks because some of the people in educational television have been attempting, for example, to gain what is really not a very large amount of money to support a nightly discussion from Washington on an educational TV network. I think in the commercial you can't mention TV when you are on radio and radio when you are on TV. I think on an FM educational station this is alright. The sum is a very modest sum.
What it would provide would be something like a 15-minute to 30-minute nightly program, or three times a week, of analysis, grammatic discussion, and dramatization of the various aspects of the bill. It would attempt to develop through new audiences for these media through the Negro Press, through the civil rights organizations, through trade unions, and through other groups a large audience that for the first time would have a front-row seat on a legislative struggle or battle and be able to identify the players, as we say in football, by the numbers, by knowing what is going on.
In 1957 and 1960 when these two previous civil rights bills were passed, the public didn't know very much about any of the specifics at all. The pressure in support of stronger measures was very weak, very weak indeed. This ultimately resulted in a lot of congressmen, Republicans and Democrats, getting off the hook.
What a program and what public discussion does is that it tends to put the spotlight on the congressmen and makes them take their position publicly. It brings them out so to speak so the public has an idea where congressman so and so stands and how he actually did vote. When a bill gets on the floor of Congress and it goes into the process of debate, amendment, and amendments to amendments, it can get pretty confusing.
Unless there is some clear and distinct understanding at what is at stake here, the public will get lost and the politicians will be able to hide and come out with a weaker bill. At this point, rather than talk about the specific objectives and the specific aspects of the legislation, which isn't premature but is only premature in the sense that we don't yet have any guarantee that there is going to be any full public discussion. This is where I'd like to put a good deal of energy. This is the payoff on today's demonstration.
This is why I said earlier that I approach this with some degree of skepticism because my feeling was that this has got to be a beginning. You've got to galvanize and direct all this energy and organization towards support, full knowledge and discussion of the specific legislative objectives coming up. I'd like to see some of this energy and some of this tremendous spirit brought to bear in that enterprise. It would be revolutionary because it would be the first time, I think, in American history that a bill as complicated and detailed as this would be subject to that kind of public discussion and analysis, at least in recent times.
I'd like to ask Mr. Burns to say something in a moment. Before that, I would like to say something of my own. Are we not dealing with the subject where there is perhaps more emotion and less reason than on almost any other subject that comes before the Congress? Perhaps wrongly I inferred from Professor Goldsmith's remarks that he may be basing his remarks on the assumption that there was a majority opinion in the country behind passage of this legislation. I wonder myself whether that is in fact so.
I think the difficulty begins to come out in the points that Bill Higgs was making. I think Mr. Higgs rightly argues that in certain areas, what he calls pure civil rights, there is indeed a very strong consensus. In some of the other areas that begin to touch upon northern practices to a greater extent, there is less consensus. You start from your strongest position.
I gather in his criticism of the administration that it's leading from its weaker position rather than its stronger position. You start from your stronger position where there is consensus. Through public discussion, argument, and persuasion, you attempt to develop a greater, larger or wider spectrum of support and consensus.
But, I'm not convinced by that Gallup poll at all. I think the Gallup poll is a reaction to a variety of different images and impressions that may have been gained from yesterday's newspaper or some demonstration that might not have set well with the particular people viewing it.
I think if some proper leadership comes forth and begins to talk in terms of the basic objectives of the civil rights movement and how these can be translated into legislative objectives, I have some confidence that the American people would give greater support to that than one would think from the indications of the statistics on the Gallup poll.
Mr. Burns do you have something to say about the likelihood of passage of legislation and your assessment of whites' opinion or majority opinion in the country on the President's proposed legislation?
Before I do pass onto those points Mr. Godsell, I would like to just briefly add one or two observations on my own along the lines of what Professor Goldsmith and Mr. Higgs have been saying about the importance of initiating a dialogue. I would concur wholeheartedly in everything they've said.
But also I'd like to approach this whole idea of communications and the initiation of a dialogue from a slightly different point of view. It's important that this dialogue is initiated soon because of the particular juncture that we're in with the protest movements among American Negroes. What we've been talking about so far, we have completely set aside the Negro expecting that perhaps when we come around to granting the rights, he'll still be there asking for them as he always has been.
I think what we have to recognize is that the role of protest in the Negro communities is something that is really changing quite rapidly. Whereas it's been the strange habit of many American whites throughout our history to regard the Negro as an object of social policy rather than one of its agents as something to be worked upon in the scheme of events rather than an initiator of events. This has long past. The Negro today is an agent of social policy.
The question of what we're going to do to the Negro, for the Negro, and with the Negro is no longer as germane as perhaps once was. The Negro is here to tell you that no matter what the 63% of people think in this Gallup poll about whether or not he should be in the streets calling for freedom and equality now, he's going to be there calling for freedom and equality now.
Today in Washington, I saw a very decorous, a very peaceful, solemn demonstration, which was in the best tradition of our American heritage of people calling for redress of grievances and very valid grievances they were. The Negro was in the streets. I think the failure of the legal judicial system to give them just redresses has put him in the streets. He's there non-violently and peacefully now.
I think that if the country is not willing to listen to the challenge that is being thrown out to them, if they are not willing to bridge the gap, which we have between this American dream and American reality, they might find that they're going to have to face in the next few years a very disillusioned citizenry.
The type of Negro protests that we have in the future might very well change. A country that too long rejects its own, might one day wake up to find its own rejecting it. I think it's very important that we think about what the Negro is going to be doing all this time that we're coming around.
Just one second, if I could interrupt Mr. Burns and then if you could go right back to him to back up what he is pointing out here. I'd like to read just a few sentences more from that speech that was not given this afternoon if that would be alright.
Go ahead.
To back up what he says, "The revolution is a serious one. Mr. Kennedy is trying to take the revolution out of the street and put it in the courts. Listen Mr. Kennedy, listen Mr. Congressman, listen fellow citizens. The black masses are on the march for jobs and freedom. We must say to the politicians that there won't be a cooling off period. All of us must get in the revolution.
Get in and stay in the streets of every city, every village, and every part of this nation. For true freedom comes until the revolution is complete. The Delta and the Mississippi in Southwest Georgia, in Alabama, Harlem, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and all of this nation. The black masses are on the march. We won't stop now. All of the forces of Eastland, Barnett, Wallace, and Thurmond won't stop this revolution. The time will come when we will not confine our marching to Washington.
We will march through the south, through the heart of Dixie, the way Sherman did. We shall pursue our own scorched earth policy and burn Jim Crow to the ground non-violently. We shall crack the south into a thousand pieces and put them back together in the image of democracy. We will make the action of the past few months look petty. I say to you, wake up America." That was the conclusion of the version of the speech that Mr. Lewis would have given.
Mr. Burns, I'm in complete agreement with what you said about the present Negro role. My own feeling is that the eventual outcome of this is, of course, beyond question. It's the length and the rockiness of the road between here and the eventual outcome that exercises me. I think I sense the beginning of what one might call a white counter-revolt that is going to make things difficult.
I am not suggesting for one minute that that should influence the Negroes in what they believe are right actions in standing up for their rights. I just make that comment before giving the microphone back to you.
I'm sure this counter-revolution is coming about. There are many indications, both north and south, to justify this idea on your part. I've seen in the northern communities I've visited in recent weeks a great deal of white reaction to the Negro revolution. I also know that in the south, obviously, there is a great deal more organized reaction.
The B'nai B'rith Atlanta office reported that the Klan has gained four to 5,000 members this summer alone. That is just one example. I would go back to something that Professor Goldsmith and Mr. Higgs both said about this question of pure civil rights issues and good hard civil rights questions.
The more tricky questions of discrimination you get into, the more subtle type of Jim Crow, I like to call it James Crow esquire, that you find in the northern cities. I think it's a fine distinction to make because it's a very valid one. When we talk about white attitudes in America and the possibilities of getting legal changes, I think in these hard areas of police brutality and voting rights we'd find a very strong majority.
However, I don't think that this means the rest of the whites have their minds made up on the rest of the issues. If you went up to the average white American, I think he would tell you that he would be in favor of legislation with regard to police brutality. The question of housing and perhaps other issues you find in the north such as jobs might be a little bit more tricky for him.
Could I cut in just to say this Mr. Burns? If either Mr. Higgs or myself in any way indicated that we were speaking outside or apart, I think both of us have been working in the civil rights movement for so long that we don't tend to think of ourselves as separated from it. Perhaps we take for granted an assimilation and maybe it's not as valid as we think it is.
At any rate, I'm trying to think this through in those terms. The lines from Mr. Lewis' speech are interesting. I think I ought to say this much about it. I think from what I've observed in the civil rights movement where I've stood over a period of years with some participation in it through a variety of different groups. There is a spectrum of opinion and thought in the civil rights movement, Negro and white, but if you will, even in the Negro community.
I'm not so sure all of the ideas of Mr. Lewis, perhaps are not as carefully thought through in terms of seasoned experience as some of the other leaders of the civil rights movement. We should not jump immediately to assume that this is a consensus position. It seems to me the difficulty of some of his remarks were not with the overall objectives that he was articulating.
In terms of achieving certain legislative goals, they don't solve all problems by any means. But, they are realistic and hard goals just the same. Public accommodations, a provision in a law, would please and satisfy not entirely but many of the members of the civil rights movement. They want to see that objective. That's not all they want but that's one of the objectives.
A stronger section on voting. If you read carefully the provisions of the present bill, it's a good deal stronger and gives the attorney general the power that he lacked in the previous civil rights bills. There are various other provisions of the proposed act with the possibility of other amendments and proposals coming through on the floor.
I think there are a good number of people who feel these objectives ought to be battened down and won now. The magnificent struggle put up in the spring was the drive that lead to these. These are not objectives that are being pushed onto the Negro population. They are objectives that the Negro population has won. They have forced the politicians and forced the administration into supporting as strong a bill as this is. Some of us don't want to see that lost, that initial victory not sensing that it is a total or complete victory.
There could well have been a reaction among both Negro and white leaders in the consideration of Mr. Lewis' remarks today on this specific occasion that they might have not contributed toward this immediate objective as much as if he had modulated them. It seems to me, that was their decision and they came out with that decision. I for one think it was a wise one and support it.
It doesn't mean that Mr. Lewis or SNCC or any other individuals should not heartily join in this public dialogue, which is yet to be forced out into the public arena and articulate their position when they do. This was a meeting where a group of diverse points of view were gathered together, both Negroes and whites. They arrived at a certain common denominator and I think it was proper that they stick to it.
Of course, I strongly would disagree as to Mr. Lewis properly making these remarks, I think implicit and actually expressed. What you've mentioned Bill is that as a matter of fact, of course the speech has not yet. In fact it was effectively prevented, our friend being brought out. This was the one great opportunity really.
You know, SNCC has tremendous difficulty getting press coverage of any type to the degree that they should. The atrocities, the things and the events that they're involved in would properly merit. This is a great problem. This was a great opportunity. I think this has to be realized. I think the dialogue has to start somewhere.
It's getting somewhat late now in a sense because a subcommittee has begun drafting the bill itself and will finish before very long, maybe even ten days or so. They've already spent about three to four weeks on it. In a sense, time is fleeing. The thing must begin it seems to me.
Secondly, I would like to say that any assumption that the voting title makes the voting law a good deal stronger, may well be quite false. There are too many loopholes in the act even as amended by the government. For example, as amended by the Government's Title One, the strengthened parts of the voting rights bill would only apply to only around 200 counties in the south, those that have less than 15 percent eligible Negro registration.
Secondly, even under the government's act, the federal district judge does not have to appoint a referee. He can still handle the case himself. Therefore, the limitations on the panel of referees that they put in the bill is largely ineffective for this reason.
Another way the federal district judge can get around it is by using a loophole in the bill to find what is called a pattern of practice of discrimination on his own. Then completely bypass this attempt to tie his hands in the choice of referees to administer the voting rights proposal.
Fourthly, the federal district judge has to approve and issue orders on all applications that have been found valid by the referees, if he does appoint referees. Fifthly, any enforcement of this is going to have to be done through the contempt power. You're going right back to the same federal district judge. You have all these problems.