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date: 31 July 2021

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Under the accelerating pressure of the American civil rights movement—and with images of African Americans being attacked and beaten as they demanded equality beaming across television screens—President Kennedy introduced civil rights legislation during his administration. Realizing that advocacy of this position might endanger the position of his Democratic Party, particularly in the South, in the elections of 1964, Kennedy continued to find ways to shape American public opinion while also cajoling Congress to implement this legislation. Civil rights advocates, spearheaded by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968), convened in a march on Washington, DC, in August 1963. Marchers explicitly demanded “jobs and freedom.” While the electrifying speech King gave on that day is more remembered for its stirring conclusion about his “dream” and about letting “freedom ring,” the prepared remarks at the beginning of the speech reveal even more of King’s brilliance and the depth of his political thought.

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