The Civil Rights Act of 1957, not in itself as revolutionary as its supporters hoped or its detractors feared, opened the door to later, more substantial legislative reparation to Blacks. Not until the next decade could Southern Black Children share a classroom with white Americans; not until the next decade could Southern Black adults eat a sandwich at the same lunch counter as whites. But in the context of the times the ‘meagre’ – (Robert) Caro’s word – 1957 Act was the indisputable first step.
Let’s dwell on the rhetoric of that moment – the limited advances that cleared the way for legal and political equality. In a 1957 speech a few hours before the vote, Johnson said, ‘I cannot follow the logic of those who say that because we cannot solve all the problems we should not try to solve any of them.’