WHO contributed more to the final establishment of Civil Rights in the United States in the 1960s - Martin Luther King or Lyndon Baines Johnson?
After forty years the issue may seem academic but it came very much alive this week when Hillary Clinton commented that “Dr King's dream began to be realised when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It took a president to get it done.” This apparently factual statement immediately drew criticism from James Clyburn, the highest-ranking African American in the US Congress, who said Mrs Clinton's remark about Martin Luther King was “dismissive”. Congressman Clyburn represents South Carolina where half of the Democratic voters are African Americans and a key primary takes place on January 26. Hillary Clinton was responding to what she considers to be Barack Obama's frequent references to Martin Luther King's achievements which she believes lack recognition that in the end progress is made by governments that respond to public pressure. She thinks her opponent is a “dreamer” while she is a “fixer”. Dreamers don't have to be elected but fixers do. Perhaps her comment about President Johnson could have been better put but the fact is that after decades of ineffective legislation he was the president who forced the stubborn Southern opponents of equal rights to back down. Mrs Clinton has borrowed from Mario Cuomo, a former governor of New York State, the nice phrase that “the poetry of a campaign needs to be matched with the prose of what it takes to govern”.


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