MLK and LBJ
Friday, January 18, 2008 - 11:11 AM
unofficial TRANSCRIPTION of <a href=" http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/history/johnson/mlkvra.wav">Conversation: MLK & LBJ, January 15, 1965
King: And it is very interesting that Mr. President noted that the only state that you didn't carry (in the South) have less than 40% of the Negroes registered to vote. Very interesting to note it. I think a Professor at the University of Texas brought this out very clearly in a recent article - to demonstrate that it is so important to get Negroes registered to vote in large numbers in the South. It would be this coalition of the Negro vote and the moderate white vote that will really make the New South.
LBJ: That's exactly right. I think it's very important that we not just say that we're doing this and not do it just because it's Negroes and Whites. We take the position that every person born in this country - when they reach a certain age - that he has a right to vote just like he has a right to fight. And that we just extend it whether it's a Negro, whether it's a Mexican -- whoever it is. And number two -- I think that we don't want special privilege for anybody. We want equality for all and we can stand on that principle.
But I think you can contribute a great deal by getting your leaders and you yourself -- taking very simple examples of discrimination where a man's got to memorize Longfellow - whether he's got to quote the first 10 amendments or he's got to tell you what amendment 15, 16, 17 is... and then ask him if they know. And show what happens. And some people don't have to do that but when a Negro comes in, he's got to do it.
And we can just repeat and repeat and repeat. I don't want to follow Hitler -- but he had an idea. [MLK: Yeah] That if you just take a simple thing and repeat it often enough... Even if it isn't true, people accept it. But this is true... If you can find the worst condition that you run into in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana or South Carolina -- I think one of the worst that I ever heard of was the President of the school at Tuskegee (or the head of the Government Department there or something) being denied the right to cast a vote. If you just take that one illustration and get it on radio, get it on television, get it in the public, get it in the in the meetings, get it every place you can. Pretty soon -- the fellow that doesn't do anything but drive a tractor -- he'll say that's not right -- that's not fair. And that will help us with what we're gonna shove through in the end. [MLK: yeah you're exactly right about that]. It will be the greatest breakthrough of anything -- I think the greatest achievement of my administration - I think the greatest achievement in foreign policy (I said it to a group yesterday) was the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But I think this will be bigger - because it will do things that even that '64 Act couldn't do.