Presidents and protests, then and now


Anton Johnson

The U.S. has made progress throughout the years in guaranteeing rights to Black Americans. But some things haven’t changed. Photo courtesy of The New Republic.


In 1963, Sen. Barry Goldwater was the favorite to become the Republican nominee for president against President John F. Kennedy.

Goldwater garnered support from his party’s most conservative voters. He openly criticized President Eisenhower and other prominent Republicans for being too moderate.

Goldwater supporters in Dallas, Texas protested against Kennedy when the president visited in November. They were photographed holding signs like one that read, “Vote right, vote white. Anybody but the NAACP’s Kennedys.”

Flyers were distributed that accused Kennedy of treason. One of the grievances listed on the flyer was his support for “Communist inspired racial riots.”

Kennedy was assassinated on that same trip, and Lyndon B. Johnson became president. Johnson would go on to defeat Goldwater in a landslide in the 1964 election, winning 44 states.

The six states that Goldwater won included his home state of Arizona, and five states across the South: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

The south had historically voted for Democrats, but Goldwater’s conservative appeal and opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 helped him to win the votes of white southerners.

President Kennedy had cautiously supported the civil rights movement. After Martin Luther King Jr. was jailed for protesting in Georgia, then Senator Kennedy called Governor Ernest Vandiver to find a way to free the civil rights leader.

Kennedy also called King’s wife, Coretta. Robert Kennedy was angered by the members of the campaign who convinced his brother to make the call. He feared losing the Southern vote.



Joe Biden became the second Catholic elected President of the United States, after John F. Kennedy. Like Kennedy, Biden has been accused by conservatives of being a socialist, and promoting violent riots.

Also like Kennedy and the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Biden has only cautiously supported the Black Lives Matter movement. Just as the civil rights movement was dismissed as “Communist inspired,” conservative conspiracy theorists have alleged that Communist China funded last summer’s protests.

BLM is approved by the majority of Americans according to Pew Research, peaking in June 2020 at 67%. Despite the progress, only 45% of white Americans approve of Black Lives Matter.vBiden only won 41% of the white voters.

Martin Luther King Jr. never had majority approval during the civil rights movement, according to Gallup polls from the time.

Perhaps it’s wrong to write an article during Black History Month, and spend most of the page talking about powerful white people like President Kennedy and President Biden. Despite the assertions of their conservative opponents, they weren’t radical activists who controlled the race relations of their time.

In April 1963, King was once again jailed for participating in civil rights protests. It was then when he wrote the famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

King said, “I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality.”