Lyndon Johnson Was a Civil Rights Hero. But Also a Racist

Adam Serwer, MSNBC, April 12, 2014

Lyndon Johnson said the word “nigger” a lot.

In Senate cloakrooms and staff meetings, Johnson was practically a connoisseur of the word. According to Johnson biographer Robert Caro, Johnson would calibrate his pronunciations by region, using “nigra” with some southern legislators and “negra” with others. Discussing civil rights legislation with men like Mississippi Democrat James Eastland, who committed most of his life to defending white supremacy, he’d simply call it “the nigger bill.”

Then in 1957, Johnson would help get the “nigger bill” passed, known to most as the Civil Rights Act of 1957. With the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the segregationists would go to their graves knowing the cause they’d given their lives to had been betrayed, Frank Underwood style, by a man they believed to be one of their own. When Caro asked segregationist Georgia Democrat Herman Talmadge how he felt when Johnson, signing the Civil Rights Act, said ”we shall overcome,” Talmadge said “sick.”

The Civil Rights Act made it possible for Johnson to smash Jim Crow. The Voting Rights Act made the U.S. government accountable to its black citizens and a true democracy for the first time. Johnson lifted racist immigration restrictions designed to preserve a white majority–and by extension white supremacy. He forced FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, then more concerned with “communists” and civil rights activists, to turn his attention to crushing the Ku Klux Klan. Though the Fair Housing Act never fulfilled its promise to end residential segregation, it was another part of a massive effort to live up to the ideals America’s founders only halfheartedly believed in–a record surpassed only by Abraham Lincoln.

So it would be tempting, on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, as Johnson is being celebrated by no less than four living presidents, to dismiss Johnson’s racism as mere code-switching–a clever ploy from an uncompromising racial egalitarian whose idealism was matched only by his political ruthlessness.

But that wouldn’t be true. Johnson was a man of his time, and bore those flaws as surely as he sought to lead the country past them. For two decades in Congress he was a reliable member of the Southern bloc, helping to stonewall civil rights legislation. As Caro recalls, Johnson spent the late 1940s railing against the “hordes of barbaric yellow dwarves” in East Asia. Buying into the stereotype that blacks were afraid of snakes (who isn’t afraid of snakes?) he’d drive to gas stations with one in his trunk and try to trick black attendants into opening it. Once, Caro writes, the stunt nearly ended with him being beaten with a tire iron.

{snip} In Flawed Giant, Johnson biographer Robert Dallek writes that Johnson explained his decision to nominate Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court rather than a less famous black judge by saying, “when I appoint a nigger to the bench, I want everybody to know he’s a nigger.”


Nor should Johnson’s racism overshadow what he did to push America toward the unfulfilled promise of its founding. When Republicans say they’re the Party of Lincoln, they don’t mean they’re the party of deporting black people to West Africa, or the party of opposing black suffrage, or the party of allowing states the authority to bar freedmen from migrating there, all options Lincoln considered. They mean they’re the party that crushed the slave empire of the Confederacy and helped free black Americans from bondage.


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  • Alexandra1973

    That’s actually a good name for it. As much as I didn’t particularly care for LBJ (from what I heard of him–I’ll be 42 tomorrow), he got something right!

  • WR_the_realist

    Ah yes, what would be do without MSNBC telling us what to think?

    white supremacist — anyone who defends the interests of white people.
    civil rights leader — anyone who defends the interests of non-white people.

    Johnson lifted racist immigration restrictions designed to preserve a white majority–and by extension white supremacy.

    Yes, “racist” Lydon Johnson was a traitor to white people. MSNBC never tries to hide its delight that whites are now doomed to be an ever smaller minority in the United States.

    • Samuel Hathaway

      Don’t watch that MSNBC trash… it’s a hate network, and I haven’t watched it in years…. I think the last time I watched it was in early June of 2012 just to see Ed Schultz cry and weep over Scott Walkers victory in the runoff election in Wisconsin… in 2012?

      • WR_the_realist

        I don’t watch MSNBC on any regular basis. I do see an MSNBC youtube video from time to time to confirm that it’s the most anti-white channel in existence.

      • Marilyn Rosen

        That’s true! In high school we were encouraged to watch the lamestream media to get caught up in news and politics

  • Luca

    LBJ only did what was good for himself and the Democrats. He didn’t care if he destroyed America or not, as long as he promoted himself and his party.

    Civil Rights Act, the Immigration Act of 1965, Vietnam and the War on Poverty, were all done to put LBJ in the history books and increase the Democratic base.

    May he roast in hell for what he did to this country.

    • IstvanIN

      He was pretty evil.

      • Speedy Steve

        Read A Texan Looks At Lyndon by J. Evetts Haley. You can get it for about one cent plus S&H

    • Samuel Hathaway

      Yes, LBJ knew that the 1965 Immigration Act would lead to a permanent Democratic voting underclass. He had to do it since he knew the white Southern base was now gone and had been shoved into the Republican party.

      • The only reason why your analysis is a bit off base is that in the 89th Congress (1965-1966), the President was a Democrat, the House and Senate were both heavily Democrat, 68% Democrat in both chambers. At the time, the Democrat party’s electoral prospects were the last thing on LBJ’s mind, because he didn’t think that there would ever be a serious threat to the Democrats. What LBJ wanted from the civil rights acts and the immigration open borders act was to crowd out the white-Southern-conservative wing of his own party into demographic irrelevance. LBJ never considered the possibility that the white Southerner would in the next generation switch to the Party of Lincoln.

        • Luca

          It is well known among political analysts that immigrants tend to vote for the Democratic party and that the negroes would vote for anyone giving them gifts, pampering their egos and rewarding them to stay at home and procreate.

          • Correct on both counts. But read closely and read it again. The President was a Democrat, the House was 68% Democrat and the Senate had 68 Democrats to 32 Republicans. I can understand today’s Democrats wanting to elect a new people for its own sake. But the Democrats of 1965-66 had no such worries. Therefore, their mania for giving the vote to southern blacks and opening the borders to non-whites had to do with crowding out the southern whites within the Democrat Party.

          • Samuel Hathaway

            South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana all knew that very well. The bitter fruit of the 1965 Immigration act will give the Democrats a racial-socioeconomic majority for generations. They couldn’t have it in a majority white country.

        • Samuel Hathaway

          Actually, that had already been well on it’s way to reality… South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana all went for Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election.

          • However, LBJ and most Democrat big wigs of the day assumed that that was just a one-off, a temporary reaction and aversion to the push for the civil rights laws. And, if I was 37 years old in 1965 like I’m 37 years old today, I wouldn’t think that they were crazy for coming to that conclusion. Nobody but nobody thought that the white Southerner would ever permanently throw in with the Party of Lincoln.

          • MikeofAges

            But, did the White Southerner leave the Democratic Party over race, or was it because of the rise of the New Left and the counterculture and the growing power of that element in the Democratic Party. I was there, and my understanding was, the tenets of Southern Republicanism accepted the Civil Rights Act, voting rights and public school desegregation as the law of the land. The Republicans opposed social radicalism and supported regional economic development. The South is a lot closer the economic parity with the North than it was 50 years ago. Some parts are there already, and all who lived there are helped by lower housing and energy costs.

          • More the latter. But the point still remains, nobody in 1965 would have ever guessed it would have happened.

          • MikeofAges

            True, although there was precedent. 1928. Both times Eisenhower ran. Another way of looking at is that the South was challenged to join the modern world. So it did.

          • 1928, 1952, 1956, 1964, 1968. Look at the EC maps for those years and look at AR-LA-MS-AL-GA-SC. Mostly they voted Al Smith or Adlai Stevenson or Barry Goldwater or George Wallace.

          • Samuel Hathaway

            It wasn’t until 1972 with Richard Nixon that white southerners began to seriously cement their Republican preferences in Presidential elections. Of course, there was a small interruption in that for Jimmy Carter in 1976, but Reagan pretty much permanently got the white southern vote to stay in the GOP camp.

        • Nancy

          He’s famous for saying, “I’ll have them n*****s voting Democrat for the next 200 years!”

        • Blackfish

          Just like Obama is doing through “immigration reform.”

      • Speedy Steve

        Southern Whites voted for George Wallace in 1968. Then they went GOP with Reagan.

        • Samuel Hathaway

          Yes, George Wallace. I still have an old George Wallace bumper sticker somewhere at my parents house. I’m sure mom and dad voted for Nixon, though.

    • ElComadreja

      He was instrumental in destroying America. He finished what Kennedy set out to do.

  • TomIron361

    Lyndon Johnson Was a Civil Rights Hero. But Also a Racist,
    I don’t give a rat’s behind about what he said about blacks. But what I do care about him is he allowed the USS Liberty to be attacked on the open seas in broad daylight by our ally, Israel and when our aircraft carrier launched planes to save the Liberty, he ordered them back to ship to allow the attack to continue. We still owe Israel big-time for this and I hope we settle that account in full with all the accumulated interest added on.

  • dd121

    Johnson got the civil rights act of 1964 passed with a lot more enthusiasm than the left will admit.

  • So what? LBJ used that awful unmentionable word a lot, yet signed some of the most destructive nation-wrecking legislation ever enacted. His successor as President wasn’t fond of blacks either, but administratively applied all of his predecessor’s legislative achievements with break neck speed.

    I don’t care what you say, I care what you do. Talk is cheap; actions have consequences.

  • Samuel Hathaway

    Lyndon Johnson said the word, “n****r”……er, uh…..ALOT??!!

    Wow…. where’s the crime? whose rights were violated because he said the word, “n****r.?

    What’s the big deal?!!

    • Alexandra1973

      Compared to other stuff he’s guilty of, that is such penny ante stuff.

      • Speedy Steve

        He had his sister murdered, and the killer only got 5 years.

        • Alexandra1973

          Like I said….

  • Kenner

    ‘The N****r Bill’. –It’s in the trillion$. We pay and pay and pay…

  • TruthBeTold

    ‘Johnson lifted racist immigration restrictions designed to preserve a white majority–and by extension white supremacy.’

    There it is folks. The truth writ large.

  • Chip Carver

    LBJ rubber stamped every single piece of legislation the neo-bolsheviks put on his desk in their quest to take over America. Every single piece. Most notably the Immigration Act of 1965. He was either paid off, or as some half-joke, they sat him in a dark room, ran the Zapruder film, and mentioned that the same could happen to him.

  • Roninf9

    Johnson was thoroughly anti-White, anti-American, and anti-Western Civilization but was doggedly pro-Israel. So much so that he conspired with Israel to sink the USS Liberty leaving no survivors, blame the Arabs, and use the US response to help Israel snatch all the Mid East oil from the Euphrates to the Nile. Luckily the raw courage and tenacity of the American sailors on the Liberty prevented a total catastrophe and the Johnson/Israeli plot. Johnson’s maternal lineage is very interesting.

  • MekongDelta69

    ‘Negro’ is simply the Spanish word for black.

    People in the South had a ‘drawl,’ and that’s plain and simply where ‘nigra’ (and all the rest came from).

    People literally get the vapors over a damn WORD. If you were that much of a wuss in my old neighborhood, you would literally have gone into a coma. We used epithets for EVERYBODY. Nobody went running to mommy. Nobody got ‘offended.’ Nobody died.

    Man the hell up PMSNBC (and everybody else)…

    • Robert Smith

      The sticks and stones lesson has been buried for decades.

  • Samuel Hathaway

    This southerner has actually settled on the pronounciation of “NIGRA.” But only to peeve-off Al Sharpton types.

    • Race Heretic

      Ha! That is exactly what my great-grandfather did when he was forbidden from using the n-word.

  • Tim_in_Indiana

    So in other words, just another left-wing hypocrite.

  • LHathaway

    “The Civil Rights Act made it possible for Johnson to smash Jim Crow. The Voting Rights Act made the U.S. government accountable to its black citizens and a true democracy for the first time”.

    What BS. Blacks have been voting in this country for hundreds of years. The 14th amendment was passed almost 150 years ago.? Only in the deepest of the deep South, in only a few districts, at that, were blacks ‘kept from voting’ on into the 20th Century. For all we know they were prevented from voting only for the purpose of portraying all blacks as being oppressed. They certainly continue that here.

    • listenupbub

      That is interesting. Do you have some examples, or a source, for the claim that only a few districts kept blacks from voting?

      I always found it weird that old blacks in the south seem to like whites more than young ones.

      • LHathaway

        You can look up the emancipation proclamation if you want to. Then the 13th – 15th amendments to the US constitution. You might care to remember/learn that except for anecdotal evidence, that might be suspect, there was no slavery whatsoever anywhere in the north, the most populous region of the country in those days.

  • LeonNJ

    When my parents were young, there was a candy called n***** toes. I don’t think they still sell them today.

    • Kenner

      That was also slang for Brazil nuts.

      • Ludwig

        Yes indeed, you phrased it better than I did. I got modded.

        • Ludwig

          The word that I presume got my comment regarding Brazil nuts moderated was used 5 times in the article above.

      • Turkana Boy

        Also known as “Brazil Toes.”

      • LeonNJ

        Ah yes, I think I was mistaken about the candy being called that. It was for Brazil nuts. I think “tar babies” was a name for a candy like Tootsie Rolls.

      • Samuel Hathaway

        They were called chocolate drops… shaped like a triangle with a rounded point at the top…. haven’t seen them in years… it was a thin layer of chocolate that surrounded a vanilla, dense-like crème in the middle…. yes, “N****R toes is what I remember them as.

        • Kenner

          That may have been regional. The one I remember was chewy chocolate pieces called ‘N….. Babies’

    • Turkana Boy

      Does anyone remember playing with n****** chasers?

      • Speedy Steve

        I still go to firework stands and ask for them.

        • awb

          We also made n****r knocker’s for well…….uh uh ,anyway

          • Alexandra1973

            Hm…when I was a kid, “n***er knocking” was the same as doorbell ditching (knock/ring the bell, then run).

      • Samuel Hathaway

        My pet German Shepherd? Yes, he was a good n***** chaser.

        • Turkana Boy

          So was mine. Have you noticed that most dogs are “racist”? They seem to sense danger in the presence of negroes. You can’t fool Mother Nature, as they say.

          • badbox27

            Dogs can smell their African funk.

          • John Ambrose

            Expect some liberal rag like Time magazine (now that Newsweek is kaput) to do a cover story soon, “Is Your Dog Racist?”

    • MBlanc46

      Brazil nuts, as I recall.

  • John Ambrose

    Lyndon Baines Johnson will go down in history as the man who sowed the seeds of America’s decline.
    He took a country that was arguably the greatest in the history of mankind, at peace internally as well as externally, and in a few short years turned everything inside out. Among the many things his wreckless thirst for power yielded us was the Immigration Act of 1965 (which was sold using a litany of lies… our cities won’t be flooded w/ a million immigrants annually, the ethnic mix won’t be upset, no public charges will be admitted). Then there was his Great Society scam which for the last 50 years has taken billions of dollars out the pockets of mostly white taxpayers and redistributed it to a disproportionately non-white and in a very many cases ungrateful class of urban parasites. Then there was the Vietnam war which was sold to Congress and the public under with the outright lie that the North Vietnamese had attacked our ships. In the end 58,000 were killed because LBJ apparently thought he could benefit personally by using the war as a political weapon to more easily dispel accusations that he was soft on Communism. But not only did he not stop Communism in southeast Asia, he inadvertently gave it a boost here at home because the war was used by the new Left as a tool to recruit and radicalize the nation’s disaffected young people.

    • MBlanc46

      Well, it wasn’t at peace when Johnson became president. The “civil rights” movement had been underway for a good ten years and the unrest over Vietnam was already starting to percolate. And if he didn’t defeat the VC and North Vietnam, it wasn’t for lack of trying.

  • Roninf9

    Apparently, American Renaissance doesn’t want you to know about Johnson’s role in the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty. Why is that?

  • Speedy Steve

    I prefer Knee Grow. BET’s Comic View does too.

  • Speedy Steve


  • Alden

    Johnson was the President most detrimental to Whites. 1964 civil rights act 1965 non White immigration 1968 although it was Nixon who did the most damage.

    But those things were not the worst the worst was the war in poverty program. The vast extension of welfare was nothing compared to the people hired by both non profits and government agencies.
    They were all hard left anti White Marxists, mostly red diaper babies the young adult children of FDR’s commies in government. The original Black Panthers, Jesse Jackson, Eldredge Cleaver, Sharpton, and black Muslims were all given funding by LBJ

    For instance when Bill Ayers and Bernadette Dohrn were on the run from a bank robbery and nursery they worked for ThePrison Law Project and Legal Services for Children, both funded by the war on poverty. A lot of the affirmative action, don’t expell black savages from school and the more civil rights for criminals lawsuits were funded. Y the war on poverty

  • John Smith

    LBJ was all about getting votes for Democrats and he knew that blacks were an relatively untapped and easily exploitable group that he could use to keep his party in office with handouts and empty rhetoric.

  • Nancy

    Yes, he did.

  • Lee_CPA

    Lest ye forget, the civil rights bill was heavily supported by the hideous JFK. Johnson used the emotional impact of JFK’s assassination to pass the monstrocity.
    Here is a quote about Johnson:

    “He was described by friends, fellow politicians, and historians as motivated by an exceptional lust for power and control. As Johnson’s biographer Robert Caro observes, “Johnson’s ambition was uncommon—in the degree to which it was unencumbered by even the slightest excess weight of ideology, of philosophy, of principles, of beliefs.”
    Kennedy and Johnson – two of a kind. Almost bungled us into a shooting war with Russia, threw white people under the bus with the civil rights act, sowed the seeds for the destruction of America with the Immigration Act of 1965, transformed America from a land of “doers” to a land of “moochers” with the so-called “Great Society”, and got 58,000 Americans killed in a senseless war.

  • Sid Ishus

    I spell traitor, J-o-h-n-s-o-n.

  • Earl P. Holt III

    See: Even a stopped clock is correct twice a day. (At least he got it about the nigros…)

  • awb

    That’s what we called them here in Mo. for year’s. We also had firework’s called n****r chaser’s (whistler’s).

  • ElComadreja

    It’s still a proper term.

    • Race Heretic

      I prefer it because it is obviously a noun in English, so sounds proper and archaic, and “black” is sometimes confusing, and other terms are too verbose. However, I can’t use it in polite company.

  • Cid Campeador

    I’m sure that he did. He probably referred to Italo-Americans as grease balls, Dagos, Wops and Guineas.
    He was a pendejo but a dangerous one.
    Lee Harvey Oswald WAS a “patsy”.