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🚨President Kennedy Makes Televised Speech on Race Relations

June 11, 1963 - President Kennedy told the nation tonight it faced a “moral crisis” as a result of the rising tide of Negro discontent. “This is a problem which faces us all in every city of the North as well as the South,” Mr. Kennedy said in an address televised by all three networks. He promised to send to Congress next week sweeping legislation to speed school desegregation and open public facilities to every American, regardless of color. Above all, Mr. Kennedy solemnly told the millions of citizens watching him speak from the White House, the problem of the Negro’s place in American life “must be solved in the homes of every American across the country.” The objective of every citizen, the President said, must be “for every American to enjoy the privilege of being American without regard to his race or color” — to be treated “as one would wish his children to be treated.” Mr. Kennedy’s address was one of the most emotional speeches yet delivered by a President who has often been criticized as being too “cool” and intellectual. At times, Mr. Kennedy appeared to be speaking without a text, and there was a fervor in his voice when he repeatedly spoke of the moral necessity for white Americans to treat Negro Americans as equals. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, called President Kennedy’s address “a hallmark in the annals of American history.” Dr. King sent the President a telegram terming the speech “one of the most eloquent, profound, and unequivocal pleas for justice and the freedom of all men ever made by any President.” “I am sure that your encouraging words will bring a new sense of hope to the millions of disinherited people of our country,” the Negro leader said.


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