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LBJ Meets with MLK and Other Civil Rights Leaders

Jan. 18, 1964 - President Johnson was reported today to be hopeful that the civil rights bill would reach the floor of the House of Representatives by the end of the month. The bill is now before the House Rules Committee, which must clear it for floor action. The Senate will take up the omnibus bill after the House votes on it. President Johnson’s hopes for speedy House debate were reported by four Negro leaders after a surprise 1½-hour meeting at the White House. The President discussed his campaign for civil rights and against poverty with Dr. Martin Luther King, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, and James Farmer. The Negro leaders were invited to the White House by telephone last night. They explained, after the meeting, that the President had asked them to consult with them and advise him in the future. They stressed also that in today’s meeting they had discussed chiefly the President’s pending message on his plans to cope with poverty in the nation. It was in this context that the civil rights bill came up for discussion, the Negro leaders explained.

Dr. King, who was first to speak for the group, said that they had had a “lengthy and fruitful discussion with the President on vital issues concerning our nation.” Dr. King said that all were agreed during the discussion that Mr. Johnson’s crusade against poverty was dependent upon improvements in education, both general and vocational, and that these in turn were inextricably tied to the civil rights issue. The war against poverty, Dr. King said, “is a problem that affects the whole nation in general and the Negro in particular.” Asked if they had discussed with President Johnson the possibility of a compromise on the civil rights bill as a means of ensuring its passage, Dr. King answered emphatically that a compromise was not discussed, adding: “We feel that this bill should not be watered down any further. We are not prepared to compromise in any form.” The bill includes a fair employment practice commission, a ban on segregation in restaurants and other places of public accommodation, fresh steps against school segregation, and a half dozen other provisions supporting equal rights.



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