ABSTRACT

Success for Martin Luther King was never complete, enduring, or unambiguous. As 1964 neared its end, he could take satisfaction in the newly passed Civil Rights Act. It had outlawed segregation of public accommodations, greatly strengthened the federal government’s ability to secure school desegregation by threatening the suspension of vital grants-in-aid to noncompliant school districts, and provided a legal basis for affirmative action to remedy employment discrimination. The November elections had also been encouraging. President Johnson had won a landslide victory on November 3 over Republican Barry Goldwater, with 61 percent of the national vote. This included a remarkable 96 percent of the black vote, some of it swayed by King’s anti-Goldwater speeches. The elections had also returned a Congress more supportive of civil rights. Fully half the Northern members who had opposed the 1964 Act were defeated to ensure that the forty-eight Democratic gains in the House temporarily accentuated its liberal outlook on racial matters (Branch 1998: 522).