This Day in History: 50th Anniversary of LBJ’s “Forgotten American” Message

It’s pretty easy to go through the archives of U.S. history to find documents with high-sounding rhetoric on issues of racial justice that never reached their goals. This isn’t to say that the speeches, proclamations, and task force reports didn’t make some difference at the time, but current realities show that collectively they haven’t brought into being the promises of economic opportunity and social justice.

Today’s example is President Lyndon Johnson’s: “Special Message to the Congress on the Problems of the American Indian: ‘The Forgotten American.’”  It was issued 50 years ago today, March 6, 2018.

The 4,200-word-plus message talks about the plight of indigenous peoples and promises improvements in housing, education, health care and more. Still, words and phrases in the initial paragraphs of this 50-year-old text are cringe worthy. And the stated goals remind us of how much repair still is left to do. Continue reading

This Day in History: President Johnson’s ‘Forgotten American’ Speech

On this day in history, March 6, 1968, President Johnson delivered his “Forgotten American” speech, speaking on the problems facing American Indians and laying out a detailed plan of increased support for American Indian self determination.

Here is how he started the speech:

Mississippi and Utah–the Potomac and the Chattahoochee–Appalachia and Shenandoah . . . The words of the Indian have become our words–the names of our states and streams and landmarks.

His myths and his heroes enrich our literature. His lore colors our art and our language. For two centuries, the American Indian has been a symbol of the drama and excitement of the earliest America.

But for two centuries, he has been an alien in his own land.

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