A Divided Union

John F Kennedy ‘The New Frontier’

1960 -- JFK (Democrat) was elected president narrowly beating Republican Richard Nixon. He wanted to make the USA a fairer place and introduced the idea of the ‘New Frontier’. The most controversial aspect of this ‘New Frontier’ were the social reforms and Civil Rights for all. He also created ‘peace corps’ volunteers to help in less economically developed countries. Kennedy also gathered the brightest minds in the country to become his advisers, this became known as the ‘brains trust’.

President Kennedy

Civil Rights under Kennedy

1961 -- Freedom Riders
CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) began to test the desegregation laws. Nine ‘Freedom Riders’ in an Alabama bus were attacked by a white mob while the police did nothing. Further attacks took place against more ‘Freedom Riders’ later in the month. But CORE achieved its aims when in November; President Kennedy forced the bus companies to integrate their terminals.

1962 -- Kennedy made a speech committing himself to black Civil Rights

1963 -- The Birmingham March (Non-Violent Direct Action)
King organised a march on Birmingham Alabama. Six years after the Montgomery decision the city was still segregated and the police had links to the Ku Klux Klan. The aim of the march was to expose the policies to national attention. In full glare of the media the police turned their dogs and fire hoses on the peaceful protesters arresting over 1000 people. Kennedy intervened, he forced the police to release all the protestors and desegregate Birmingham. In September 1963 a Ku Klux Klan bomb killed 4 black children.

1963 -- Washington March (Non-Violent Direct Action)
King organised a march on Washington and gave his ‘I have a dream’ speech.

He frustrated some campaigners who said he wasn’t doing enough and worried Congressmen from the South who said the pace of change was too fast.


Economy under Kennedy

Kennedy cut taxes to give people more money, gave grants to companies to invest in high-tech equipment and to create jobs. He invested money in defence and massively increased spending on space technology, promising to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. The economy grew quickly.

Technology didn’t help the unemployed, the rate of black unemployment was twice that of white unemployment, corporations made big profits at the expense of ordinary Americans and it was considered dangerous by some that the boom was dependent on government spending.

Poverty under Kennedy

Kennedy raised the minimum wage to help poor Americans. Under the Area Redevelopment Act communities could get money to build infrastructure, under the Housing Act areas could get loans to improve housing, under the Social Security Act more money was available for the elderly and unemployed, his Manpower and Training Act also retrained the unemployed.

The minimum wage only helped those with a job, housing loans didn’t help the poorest people, slum clearance led to housing shortages and many poor black families moved to the north where they experienced racial tension.

1963 -- Kennedy was assassinated and succeeded by Johnson.
This event brought about a drastic change in the attitudes in congress through a wave of sympathy.

People felt his policies were socialist and therefore un-American; Kennedy made little effort to encourage people to support domestic affairs instead focusing on foreign affairs. The Civil Rights were opposed by many in his own party from the Southern States believing they would lose the white vote. His programme would have cost a lot of money and congress was reluctant to increase taxes, and he never completed his term as President.