9780805096729

An Idea Whose Time Has Come Two Presidents, Two Parties, and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780805096729

  • ISBN10:

    0805096728

  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 4/1/2014
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

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Summary

A top Washington journalist recounts the dramatic political battle to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the law that created modern America, on the fiftieth anniversary of its passage

It was a turbulent time in America—a time of sit-ins, freedom rides, a March on Washington and a governor standing in the schoolhouse door—when John F. Kennedy sent Congress a bill to bar racial discrimination in employment, education, and public accommodations. Countless civil rights measures had died on Capitol Hill in the past. But this one was different because, as one influential senator put it, it was "an idea whose time has come."

In a powerful narrative layered with revealing detail, Todd S. Purdum tells the story of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, recreating the legislative maneuvering and the larger-than-life characters who made its passage possible. From the Kennedy brothers to Lyndon Johnson, from Martin Luther King Jr. to Hubert Humphrey and Everett Dirksen, Purdum shows how these all-too-human figures managed, in just over a year, to create a bill that prompted the longest filibuster in the history of the U.S. Senate yet was ultimately adopted with overwhelming bipartisan support. He evokes the high purpose and low dealings that marked the creation of this monumental law, drawing on extensive archival research and dozens of new interviews that bring to life this signal achievement in American history.

Often hailed as the most important law of the past century, the Civil Rights Act stands as a lesson for our own troubled times about what is possible when patience, bipartisanship, and decency rule the day.

Author Biography

Todd S. Purdum is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and senior writer at Politico. He previously spent more than twenty years at The New York Times, where he served as diplomatic correspondent, White House correspondent, and Los Angeles bureau chief. A graduate of Princeton University, he lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, Dee Dee Myers, the political commentator and former White House press secretary, and their two children.

Table of Contents

Prologue          1

Part One

The Administration

1 A Century’s Unfinished Business          11

2 A Great Change Is at Hand          34

3 The Heart of the Problem          59

4 Tell ’Em About the Dream!          86

Part Two

The House

5 A Compromise Between Polar Positions          117

6 A Good Man in a Tight Spot          148

7 A Great Big Vote          176

Part Three

The Senate

8 You Listen to Dirksen!          207

9 We Shall Now Begin to Fight          230

10 Alternatives and Substitutes          258

11 It Can’t Be Stopped          286

12 The Law of the Land          312

Epilogue          329

Notes          341

Bibliography          369

Acknowledgments          377

Index          383

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