Burke Marshall’s secret negotiation with William McCulloch resulted in a “no compromise, no change” approach to the administration’s civil rights bill.
Others, however, including Celler and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, wanted to strengthen the bill. Their strategy was to present to the Senate a maximalist piece of legislation, so that even if parts of it had to be bargained way (as they assumed would happen), what remained would be as far-reaching as possible. They were not privy to the deal that Marshall and McCulloch had reached, forswearing any weakening of the bill in the Senate.
The Joint Senate House Republican Leadership meeting included discussion of civil rights. Dirksen asked about the status of the bill in the House. “The replies received were somewhat uncertain but it was thought that Civil Rights legislation would not be reported until the tax bill had been reported out. Congressman Byrnes thought that the Ways & Means Committee would be through with the bill by the 9th and that it should be ready for Floor consideration by the 19th.”
During Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, Attorney General Kennedy said he would be willing to exempt barbershops, beauty parlors, and swimming pools which did not cater to travelers from the public accommodations requirements of the bill.
Chairman Eastland adjourned the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on S. 1731 subject to the call of the chair.
House Judiciary Subcommittee No. 5's hearings ended after 22 days of public hearings which generated 1,742 printed pages of testimony.
President Kennedy asked Celler to delay bill markup and consideration by the full Judiciary Committee to permit the Ways and Means Committee to report out a tax reform bill. The president feared that if the civil rights bill got out of Subcommittee No. 5, southerners on the Ways and Means Committee would kill tax reform.
Delegates to an NAACP legislative strategy session in Washington lobbied 166 House members and 62 senators for passage of a civil rights bill stronger than the Kennedy administration’s bill.
When Dirksen met with them, he told them Congress would pass a “reasonable” bill but that it would not contain a public accommodations section. “Sometimes in this very real atmosphere you have to determine whether you want some bread or no bread at all,” he told them.
Clarence Mitchell, director of the NAACP’s Washington office later told reporters that Dirksen was “very rude and wouldn’t shake hands.”
Publicly, Dirksen bristled at criticism from blacks. “You may not be satisfied with my approach,” he counseled one, “but I don’t go around particularly trying to please everyone.”
In speaking to the NAACP convention in Washington, Emanuel Celler promised to support a stronger civil rights bill. His commitment followed a meeting with Clarence Mitchell, Joseph Rauh, Andrew Biemiller, Walter Fauntroy, and Arnold Aronson who demanded “the whole loaf.” [See July 26]
House Judiciary Subcommittee No. 5, having heard from more than 100 witnesses and compiled 2,600 pages of testimony, went into executive session. Chairman Celler held seven subcommittee markup sessions from August 14 to 27 but stalled discussion of substantive matters pending the status of the tax reform bill—no amendments were proposed and no action was taken during these sessions.
Meanwhile, McCulloch met secretly with Justice Department officials to work out a bill acceptable to them, to Celler, to GOP liberals, and to GOP conservatives.
In remarks to the Senate, Dirksen talked about the Senate schedule, the pending tax bill, and the civil rights bill. He complained about the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on civil rights, citing the example that only one senator had been able to question the Attorney General.
Attorney General Kennedy presented the revised administration proposal for Title VI (non-discrimination in federally assisted programs), originally written to give the administration discretionary authority to cut off federal funds from projects involving racial discrimination. The new proposal loosened requirements and established provisions to remedy discrimination before cutting off funds.
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman James Eastland adjourned his committee subject to the call of the chairman. That call never came. Therefore, consideration of the civil rights bill by the Senate Judiciary Committee ended.
The House prepared to go home for its Labor Day recess, and Subcommittee No. 5 met for the last time in August.
About 200,000 people walked peacefully in a "March of Washington for Jobs and Freedom" to dramatize the fight for civil rights legislation. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic speech: "I have a dream that one day the nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed ... all men are created equal."
Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech (audio)
Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech (text)
The goals announced by march organizers:
• Comprehensive and effective civil rights legislation without compromise or filibuster to guarantee all Americans access to all public accommodations; decent housing; adequate and integrated education; and the right to vote.
Following the march, the ten leaders met with President Kennedy at 5:00 p.m. in the White House. They asked the president to strengthen HR 7152 by beefing up Title VII (Equal Employment) and adding a new title to expand the Justice Department’s ability to intervene in discrimination cases. Kennedy demurred.
Dirksen photographed with Martin Luther King, Roy Wilkins, Walter Reuther, and John Lewis.
As Wilkins reported to President Kennedy, “Now Mr. Dirksen was as frank as he has been with you. He told us he would support all of your package except Title II but that he had an open mind about the bill generally.”