President Lyndon B. Johnson played a monumental role in America’s quest for civil rights. The legacy of those efforts reached a crescendo from April 8 through 10, 2014, as the LBJ Presidential Library hosted a historic Civil Rights Summit to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. A host of luminaries—including President Barack Obama, the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office, and former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter—came to the LBJ Library to recognize the progress made in the country’s long, often troubled, journey toward civil rights.
“We are not caretakers of the past,” LBJ said as president, “but are charged with the construction of tomorrow.” Accordingly, he wanted his presidential library to be a “springboard to the future,” a place that would be not only a repository of things past, but a forum to explore the issues of our day. In that spirit, Destiny of Democracy reflects on Johnson’s legacy of civil rights and commemorates the historic summit. Heroes of the civil rights movement shared the summit’s spotlight with those who are making a difference today. The three former presidents and President Obama also weighed in, each praising the courage and conviction manifested by Johnson in carrying out his civil rights agenda, but also warning that while the laws he brought to bear are in place, there is still work to be done.
Updegrove is director of the LBJ Presidential Library and served as the host of the Civil Rights Summit. He is the author of three books on the presidency, including Indomitable Will: LBJ in the Presidency.