The civil rights era conjures up a wide range of dramatic images--sit-ins at segregated diners, burning churches, the massive march on Washington, police dogs and firehoses turned on protesters, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., lying dead from an assassin's bullet. But off the streets another civil rights struggle was also waged, less violent and far less visible but no less momentous, as the vast machinery of the Federal government turned to the task of securing equal rights.
The Civil Rights Era offers the first comprehensive history of this other side of the battle for civil rights. Based on extensive research in the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon presidential archives, the National Archives, and special collections of the Library of Congress, this groundbreaking study recreates the intense debates in Congress and the White House that led to the breakthrough laws of 1964 and 1965--the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act--which banned discrimination against minorities and women. Graham then follows the implementation of these policies through a thickening maze of federal agencies and court decisions. In so doing, he reveals exactly how, in the dozen years from Kennedy through Nixon, the classic liberal agenda of non-discrimination evolved into the controversial program of affirmative action. Lyndon Johnson emerges as a key figure, but surprisingly enough, it was Richard Nixon who established the preferential quotas of the Philadelphia Plan. There are other surprising findings as well: for instance, Graham argues that despite similarities in rhetoric and tactics, the black civil rights and feminist movements during the 1960s switched philosophical positions. While black organizations shifted their demands from a "color-blind Constitution" to racial preferences, feminist leaders rejected special-protection laws in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment.
The Civil Rights Era represents the definitive account of a revolution in government policy, offering keen insight into the civil rights legacy currently being challenged by the Supreme Court. Brilliantly researched and intelligently written, it offers a behind-the-scenes look at a pivotal moment in American history.show more