When the Marching Stopped: The Politics of Civil Rights Regulatory Agencies

By Hanes Walton Jr. | Go to book overview

2. THE POLITICS OF
CREATION: STRUCTURE
AND PERSONNEL

The enabling congressional legislation for these new civil rights regulatory agencies was designed in part to stop the marching of the grand civil rights movement. David Garrow writes: "The president used the signing ceremony (of the 1964 Civil Rights Act) not only to congratulate those who had contributed to the passage of one of the legislative milestones in modern American history, but also to caution the black leaders about how they should greet this new achievement. After the public ceremony, the President spoke in private with King, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, and other black representatives. He told them that there had to be 'an understanding of the fact that the rights Negroes possessed could now be secured by law, making demonstrations unnecessary and possibly even self-defeating'." 1 Marching and/or demonstrations, both the president and Congress felt, could now subside.

However, with the passage of this new law and the Supreme Court's decision that the law was constitutional, the matter of actually creating these new regulatory bodies, particularly the Title VI agencies, was left up to the various cabinet secretaries and chairmen of the sundry independent commissions and federal agencies. Put differently, in the absence of guidelines from the president or from Congress, the sole initiative to structure an Office of Civil Rights Compliance within each cabinet level department and elsewhere was left with

-28-

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