Presidents Who Made The Most Important Contributions To Civil Rights?

Jul 2016
181
Somewhere far, far away...
#1
Which POTUS's made the most important contributions or groundwork for Civil Rights?

Lincoln, Grant, Truman, Kennedy and L. B. Johnson are probably the standout names for me.

As for those who threatened to reverse this, I'd say A. Johnson, Wilson and perhaps even the Roosevelts.
 
Aug 2016
136
Virginia
#2
Civil rights for all Americans, African-Americans, Hispanic, Irish, Native Americans, Jewish, its a mixed bag.

When it comes to Native Americans up until the modern era, most Presidents fall short. Jews could not serve in many Federal agencies until FDR.

Coolidge is often overlooked. He was a supporter of Howard University including funding of a medical school there. Both Presidents Harding and Coolidge tried to get Congress to approve a “Negro Industrial Commission” to promote a better policy of mutual understanding between the races, but it could not pass the Senate.

When someone objected to the GOP nominating an African American for office, he said “...the suggestion of denying any measure of their full political rights to such a great group of our population as the colored people is one which, however it might be received in some other quarters, could not possibly be permitted by one who feels a responsibility for living up to the traditions and maintaining the principles of the Republican Party.”

While Teddy Roosevelt believed in the supremacy of the white race, it appears Coolidge did not. Teddy Roosevelt's successor, Taft supported voting rights for African-Americans, but he did not press it.
 
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Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,069
Dispargum
#4
Civil rights for all Americans, African-Americans, Hispanic, Irish, Native Americans, Jewish, its a mixed bag.

When it comes to Native Americans up until the modern era, most Presidents fall short. Jews could not serve in many Federal agencies until FDR.

Coolidge is often overlooked. He was a supporter of Howard University including funding of a medical school there. Both Presidents Harding and Coolidge tried to get Congress to approve a “Negro Industrial Commission” to promote a better policy of mutual understanding between the races, but it could not pass the Senate.

When someone objected to the GOP nominating an African American for office, he said “...the suggestion of denying any measure of their full political rights to such a great group of our population as the colored people is one which, however it might be received in some other quarters, could not possibly be permitted by one who feels a responsibility for living up to the traditions and maintaining the principles of the Republican Party.”

While Teddy Roosevelt believed in the supremacy of the white race, it appears Coolidge did not. Teddy Roosevelt's successor, Taft supported voting rights for African-Americans, but he did not press it.
Interesting to see this split in the Republican Party in the 1920s over race relations / civil rights. In 1932 African Americans began to vote overwhelmingly Democratic, and that hasn't changed down to the present.
 

Asherman

Forum Staff
May 2013
3,159
Albuquerque, NM
#5
Lincoln, FDR, Truman, JFK, and LBJ (in order of their administrations) stand out . From Jackson to Lincoln there are several Presidents who supported the institution of slavery in the Southern States. Most notable would probably be Franklin Pierce who later became part of the Confederate government. All owned slaves, or tried hard to be neutral on such a hot-button issue during that period.

Reconstruction as visualized by Lincoln, Johnson, and Grant was intended to integrate the American polity, if not the social equality we think of in the 21st century. The end of Reconstruction that was widely desired, and it kept the GOP in office until Cleveland. Garfield dead before demonstrating his potential in office, and Arthur whose fame rests on the replacement of the Spoils System with a well-regulated Civil Service System, seem to have been reluctant to directly address the effect of Jim Crow Laws. Generally, Presidents up until FDR firmly believed that they were Constitutionally constrained from mixing the Federal Government into what were regarded as State's Matters, and Law.

If States passed legislation that did not clearly violate a rather narrow interpretation of the Constitution, that was their business, not the Federal Government. While there was a growing sentiment that the economy during the latter part of the 19th century required greater Federal regulation to provide a fair and level ground for all American business, the Progressive Movement was much slower to recognize the social equality of all American citizens, and minorities of all sorts were commonly patronized and left wanting at the foot of the social ladder. There was a Eugenics Movement that advocated removal of sub-normal individuals from society. "Race" was hierarchical with North and Western Europeans at the top of the heap, and with black ex-slaves at the bottom. It was a paternalism that justified involuntary experimentation and surgical prevention of pregnancy, and segregation by law. The mentally ill, and weak minded were hidden away, sterilized, and treated in Dickinsonian way well into the 20th century. During the period from at least the latter part of the 19th century until FDR needed a mandate to tinker with the economy, no President made any sort of fuss over Civil Rights.

FDR needed to enlist the total effort of all Americans to relieve the suffering to the Dust Bowl and Great Depression. Even more important was that FDR knew that a new and more "Total War" would soon be fought against the Axis Powers. Industrial might was needed, and the labor to run industry must be drawn from previously excluded portions of the citizenry. To be finally given a real chance at joining the American family, unleashed a level of productivity that did as much to win the War as an battlefield units.

Truman built on that, and integrated the military, and opened doors for the demimonde into mainstream society. Eisenhower knowing that the Greatest Generation was uncomfortable with change, governed on the promise of domestic stability. JFK sounded the clarion call to America's Youth to right past wrongs, to extend the benefits of freedom and individual liberty to every human being, and we took him seriously ... apparently so did Oswald.

LBJ in an earlier time might have been a racist, but his background in poverty washed color from his policies. To eliminate poverty and all the problems that stemmed from it, all Americans must be entitled to full participation in American life. LBJ would have in an earlier time been labeled a "Leveler", but we know him as the guy holding the Vietnam bag of woes. After LBJ and his Great Society legislation, few fly against the PC acceptance of "entitlements", even though those costs are responsible for an impossibly large national debt, and rate at which the national debt increases.

A lot of good intentions, and a lot of unintended consequences are attached to the struggle for Civil Rights and equality before the Law.
 
Jan 2008
18,733
Chile, Santiago
#8
The premise of that article is ridiculous. There is nothing "forgotten" about Woodrow Wilson's lamentable attitude and record on race. Every biographical and historical treatment of him for decades has confronted the issue. Even his staunchest contemporary defenders do not deny its importance as the most grievous flaw in his character and legacy.
 
Jul 2016
181
Somewhere far, far away...
#9
Civil rights for all Americans, African-Americans, Hispanic, Irish, Native Americans, Jewish, its a mixed bag.

When it comes to Native Americans up until the modern era, most Presidents fall short. Jews could not serve in many Federal agencies until FDR.

Coolidge is often overlooked. He was a supporter of Howard University including funding of a medical school there. Both Presidents Harding and Coolidge tried to get Congress to approve a “Negro Industrial Commission” to promote a better policy of mutual understanding between the races, but it could not pass the Senate.

When someone objected to the GOP nominating an African American for office, he said “...the suggestion of denying any measure of their full political rights to such a great group of our population as the colored people is one which, however it might be received in some other quarters, could not possibly be permitted by one who feels a responsibility for living up to the traditions and maintaining the principles of the Republican Party.”

While Teddy Roosevelt believed in the supremacy of the white race, it appears Coolidge did not. Teddy Roosevelt's successor, Taft supported voting rights for African-Americans, but he did not press it.
I'm aware that Coolidge was in favor of Civil Rights, but he never got anything done on it, really. This thread isn't for the best of Presidents' intentions, its for the best of Presidents' acts in favor of Civil Rights.
 

Lucius

Forum Staff
Jan 2007
16,363
Nebraska
#10
...There is nothing "forgotten" about Woodrow Wilson's lamentable attitude and record on race. ...
That is true if we are confining our sample to history buffs. Everybody else only knows that he mid-wifed the League of Nations into existence(if that much).

Hey, look at this -

http://able2know.org/topic/99462-1

They kicked Truman out because he wanted to let the Catholics join!

I'm going to guess that back then politicians didn't get elected down South without the KKK endorsement, and maybe not just down south.
 

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