John F. Kennedy: Biography, Presidency and African Americans: [Essay Example], 507 words GradesFixer
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John F. Kennedy: Biography, Presidency and African Americans

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John F. Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States of America, from January 1961 until his assassination in November 1963; Kennedy was a supporter of civil rights and set many changes for civil rights in motion before his assassination on 22nd November 1963, barely after a thousand days in office. International factors meant that Kennedy struggled to focus on civil rights issues, as well as it being at the bottom of the list when people were asked “what needs to be done in America to advance society?” Therefore, Kennedy focused on other issues such as improving health care and helping the lowest wage earners; he argued that by improving these for the poor, it would effectively be civil rights legislations as African Americans would benefit the most from these two changes in the legislation. Kennedy put pressure on federal government organizations to employ more African Americans in the American equivalent of Britain’s civil service;

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Kennedy was doing more than any president before him to have more African Americans appointed to federal government posts. In total, he appointed 40 to senior federal positions including five as federal judges. Kennedy appointed his brother, Robert, as Attorney General which put him at the head of the Justice Department. Their tactic was to use the law courts as a way of enforcing already passed civil rights legislation. The justice department brought 57 law suits against local officials for impeding African Americans who desired to register their right to vote. The Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity (CEEO) was created by Kennedy to ensure that all people employed within the federal government had equal opportunities of employment; in addition, there was a requirement for all those firms that had contracts with the federal government to do the same if they were to gain further federal contracts. Conversely, the CEEO only concerned themselves with those already in employment as it did nothing to actively get employment openings for African Americans.

The voluntary activity of Kennedy came when James Meredith forced his hand as he applied to a white-only college, the University of Mississippi, in September 1962 to do a doctorate; he was rejected by the university. Meredith received legal aid from the NAACP and fought his case with the Supreme Court ruling in his favour. When he enrolled at the university, 500 marshals were sent to maintain law and order; it became violent and peace was not maintained with nearly 200 of them were injured. Kennedy then federalised the Mississippi National Guard and sent federal troops to the university.

Furthermore, the 1963 Birmingham affair, a series of lunch counter sit-ins, marches on City Hall and boycotts on downtown merchants to protest segregation laws in the city, provoked Kennedy to take further action and the justice department was ordered to Birmingham and improvements rapidly took place with desegregation of public facilities and better employment prospects for African Americans. After Kennedy’s death, only praise was accumulated upon the murdered president; however, more recently he has been criticized as a president who did nothing with his power.

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