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The Presidency of John F. Kennedy, 1961-63

8. Civil Rights

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About this Lecture


In this module, we move from foreign policy to domestic policy, and Kennedy’s work on civil rights. In particular, we focus on: (i) the growth of the civil rights movement in the 1950s; (ii) the series of crises in Kennedy’s presidency, including the Freedom Riders, the Old Miss riot of 1962, and the Birmingham Campaign of 1963; (iii) the question of whether Kennedy did enough for civil rights issues, particularly voter suppression and segregation; (iv) Kennedy’s own experience of prejudice as an Catholic; (v) Kennedy’s Civil Rights Address of 11 June 1963, which laid the foundations of the following year’s Civil Rights Act; and (vi) the extent to which Kennedy’s approach to both domestic- and foreign-policy issues changed between 1961-63.


In this course, Professor Mark White (Queen Mary University of London) explores the life and presidency of John F. Kennedy (1917-63). In the first module, we think about the development of Kennedy’s legacy from the mid-1960s to the present day. In the second, we consider his early life and education, before turning in the third to his early political career as a Representative (1947-53) and Senator (1953-60). In the fourth module, we consider his successful campaign for the presidency, before turning in the following three modules to key moments in his presidential career: the Bay of Pigs invasion (1961), the Berlin Crisis (1961) and the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962). In the eighth module, we think about Kennedy’s record on civil rights, while in the ninth we think about his approach to the increasingly volatile situation in Vietnam. In the tenth module, we think about Kennedy’s private life and the extent to which it had an impact of the performance of his public duties as president, before turning in the eleventh and final module to the importance of Kennedy’s image – as a man of culture, a man of the family, and as a sex symbol.


Mark White is Professor of History at Queen Mary, University of London, specialising in US foreign policy in the Cold War and the US presidency since 1945. His recent publications include Against the President: Dissent and Decision-Making in the White House (2007) and The Presidency of Bill Clinton: The Legacy of a New Domestic and Foreign Policy (2012)

Cite this Lecture

APA style

White, M. (2019, November 25). The Presidency of John F. Kennedy, 1961-63 - Civil Rights [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

White, M. "The Presidency of John F. Kennedy, 1961-63 – Civil Rights." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 25 Nov 2019,