President Kennedy addresses nation on Civil Rights, 11 June 1963
President Kennedy delivers his Civil Rights Speech on June 11, 1963

President John F. Kennedy’s Civil Rights Speech

President John F. Kennedy delivered a civil rights speech on June 11, 1963 in which he proposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. During the speech President Kennedy moved America to view civil rights not just as a legal issue, but as a moral one. This speech was given in response to the National Guard being sent to protect African American students Vivian Malone and James Hood’s enrollment at the University of Alabama. In the speech Kennedy said, ” We are confronted primarily with a moral issue…It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution…One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs…are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice…this Nation…will not be fully free until all its citizens are free…now the time has come for this Nation to fulfill its promise.” This speech clearly placed President Kennedy as an advocate for the civil rights of African Americans and helped transform the thoughts of many towards seeing and seeking a change of civil rights for African Americans in this country.

Vivian Malone registering
Vivian Malone registering at the University of Alabama