And so the South stood -- segregated, resistant to Lincoln's Proclamation of Emancipation with its institution of "slavery by another name"-- until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an act which was avidly opposed by another Democrat and segregationist from Virginia, Chairman of the Rules Committee, Howard W. Smith. But President Johnson, a Democrat, too, from the South, used the bully pulpit of the presidency to help get the votes for the act, and an unprecedented parliamentary procedure enabled the bill to be moved to the Senate floor for debate.
With the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Democratic party lost the segregationists of the Old South (and over the next few years, much of its southern support). We would do well to remember this history in our time, when certain forces are again calling for the passing of laws that would disenfranchise particular populations of our citizens, using the same language of the legislators of the Old South--ostensibly to prevent voting "fraud."
With this history so vividly called to mind by my research and my reading of old family letters, I was even more moved by the words of President Obama:
"We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth."