President Lyndon B. Johnson's 'We shall overcome' speech for passage of Voting Rights Act

LBJ signs Voting Rights Act
President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in a ceremony in the President's Room near the Senate Chambers on Capitol Hill in Washington. Three years ago, the Supreme Court warned there could be constitutional problems with a landmark civil rights law that has opened voting booths to millions of African-Americans. Now, opponents of a key part of the Voting Rights Act are asking the high court to finish that provision off. Surrounding the president from left directly above his right hand, Vice President Hubert Humphrey; House Speaker John McCormack; Rep. Emanuel Celler, D-N.Y.; first daughter Luci Johnson; and Sen. Everett Dirksen, R-Ill. Behind Humphrey is House Majority Leader Carl Albert of Oklahoma; and behind Celler is Sen. Carl Hayden, D-Ariz.
AP file

Fifty-five years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, which he considered his most important legacy. Less than five months earlier, he had given a special address to the Congress that was televised nationwide.

Given only a week after the bloody events in Selma, Ala., the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis watched the address on television in the city. Lewis said recently it was "one of the most meaningful speeches of any American president in modern times."

He said he and Martin Luther King wept when hearing these words from President Johnson:

Johnson did not run for reelection in 1968, and in December 1972, he convened a Civil Rights Symposium at the new Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas. He was very ill, and he died just a few weeks later. His doctors asked him not to speak at the event. But he insisted, and spoke for 30 minutes. Here are excerpts from that speech:

President Lyndon B. Johnson's remarks at 1972 Civil Rights Symposium
by MPR News Presents

It was Lyndon B. Johnson’s final public speech. He died a little more than a month later.

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