It was on this day in 1965 that President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act that ended the long era of voter discrimination in many Southern states. Johnson had been delaying legislation on voting rights, because he thought it was too soon for it to succeed. But after a group of Civil Rights marchers were attacked in Selma, Alabama, he gave a speech on TV, in which he said: “I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy. The command of the Constitution is plain. There is no moral issue. It is wrong to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote … it is all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.”
That was the first time the president of the United States had ever used the phrase, “We shall overcome.” Martin Luther King Jr. was watching the address on TV that night, and he later said that when he heard Lyndon Johnson say the words “we shall overcome,” he burst into tears. The president signed the legislation a few months later, on this day in 1965.
From: Writer’s Almanac, August 6, 2013