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President Kennedy Addresses Delays on Negro Civil Rights

Jan. 15, 1962 - President Kennedy said today that he would act to advance Negro rights “in a way which will maintain a consensus” of national opinion on the problem. He made that point at his news conference when asked why he had delayed issuing an order against racial discrimination in Federally assisted housing. The President said that it was important not to move too fast in the field of race relations so as not to get too far ahead of public opinion. The implication was that a housing order was being delayed for that reason. During his 1960 campaign, Mr. Kennedy stressed the importance of issuing an Executive Order on housing discrimination. He twice remarked that “a stroke of the Presidential pen” could open the doors to Federally aided homes without regard to race. Administration officials have drafted such an order and presented it to the President. But he has decided not to issue it at this time. Some felt that Mr. Kennedy feared that issuance of the order would hurt the chances of other legislative proposals, notably his trade program, because of possible resentment among key Southern Congressmen.

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