Wikiquote:Transwiki/American History Primary Sources Postwar America


1945 I was all right. My problem was to make people I met feel at ease. I just acted myself and didn’t sulk in corners hiding the hooks. When my neighborhood friends saw I was okay and laughing they said to themselves, “Why should we feel sorry for him? He’s getting along better than we are.” Harold Russell, a paratrooper sergeant who lost both hands in a grenade explosion and was fitted with hooks for artificial hands. Quoted in Life Magazine (December 16, 1946). He appeared in The Best Years of Our Lives, a film about war veterans adjusting to returning home after the war; he won an Academy Award for best supporting actor. 1946 Had enough? Republican campaign slogan in the congressional elections of 1946, which resulted in Republicans winning control of both houses of Congress.

1948 Mr. Dewey is clearly so far ahead that we might just as well get ready to listen to his inaugural. One pollster’s assessment of the 1848 presidential election, predicting victory for New York’s Republican Governor Thomas E. Dewey.

1948 Dewey Defeats Truman Mistaken Chicago Daily Tribune newspaper headline the day after the election in which President Truman defeated Dewey.

1948 Every segment of our population... has a right to expect from our government a fair deal. President Truman, in his State of the Union message to Congress in 1949, after his electoral victory of 1948, asking for new reforms to build on FDR’s New Deal.


1953 This a new kind of capitalism: capitalism for the many, not for the few. Economic policy of the Republicans, according to The Reader’s Digest.

1954 Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.... Have you left no sense of decency? Attorney Joseph Welch to Senator Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy was both merciless and reckless in hunting out Communist sympathizers in the United States Government. Documents from the former Soviet Union, however, seem to show that McCarthy claim of Communist infiltration was accurate.

1955 I feel pretty good when I’m attacked from both sides. It makes me more certain that I’m on the right track. President Eisenhower.

1958 The missile took off in a beautiful launching. It rose slowly at first in a huge splash of flame with a roar that could be heard for miles.... Associate Press account of the launch of the Explorer satellite, America’s first earth satellite (January 1958).


1947 Jack knew that by breaking the color barrier, he was not only paving the way for minorities in professional sports, but was also providing opportunities in all facets of life. Rachel Robinson, remember her husband, Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play in the major leagues in modern times when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.

1947 I think the start of the heavy civil rights movement came with the breaking of the color barrier in major league baseball. It was one of the greatest indications of the impetus of the civil rights movement in the United States. To me, it really was the start. It showed a lot of folks that, here was the concept of equality. It nailed many nails in the coffin, particularly in terms of the perception of inferiority. Jackie Robinson was a pioneer. He had to stand there and take it, just so others could maybe someday get where he was. Federal Judge David Hittner.

1948 We shall not... finally achieve the ideals for which this nation was founded so long as any American suffers discrimination as a result of his race, or religion, or color, or the land of origin of his forefathers. President Truman, message to Congress (1948).

1954 A feeling of inferiority... that may affect [children’s] hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.... In the field of education the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Brown v. Board of Topeka Education, the Supreme Court decision that ruled segregation is schools unconstitutional, reversing its decision in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which approved the “separate but equal” doctrine.

1955 The driver of the bus saw me still sitting there, and he asked was I going to stand up. I said, “No.” He said, “Well, I’m going to have you arrested.” Then I said, “You may do that.”... I had been pushed as far as I could stand. Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up a seat on a bus on December 1, 1955 brought on the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott.

1955 If Negroes do not ride the buses, they could not operate. We are, therefore, asking every Negro to stay off the buses Monday in protest of the arrest and trial [of Rosa Parks]. Statement of African American churches in Montgomery, starting the bus boycott.

1955 My feets is tired, but my soul is rested. An elderly woman, participating in the Montgomery bus boycott. Her words became the motto of the boycott, which began on December 5, 1955. The United States Supreme Court ruled in November 1956 that the law enforcing segregation on the bus lines was unconstitutional. The boycott ended on December 21, 1956, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., boarded a bus in Montgomery and sat in the front seat.

1955 We’re here because, first and foremost, we are American citizens, and we are determined to acquire our citizenship to the fullness of its meaning. We are tired — tired of being segregated and humiliated, tired of being kicked about by the brutal feet of oppression.... You know, my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression... We are determined here in Montgomery... to work and fight until justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream! Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., speech on December 2, 1955, during the Montgomery bus boycott.

1956 NOTICE It is required by law under penalty of fine of $5.00 to $25.00 that White and Negro passengers must occupy the respective space or seats indicated by signs in this vehicle. Texas Penal Code; Article 1659, Sec. A, Dallas City Ordinance No. 7304. Sign in public buses in Dallas, Texas, removed in response to a court ruling in 1956.

1957 No matter how great the obstacles and suffering, we urge all Negroes to reject segregation. But far beyond this, we call upon them to... understand that nonviolence is not a symbol of weakness or cowardice, but as Jesus demonstrated, non-violent resistance transforms weakness into strength and breeds courage in the face of danger. “A Statement to the South and to the Nation,” (January 10-11, 1957) issued by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which founded by almost 100 black ministers after the Montgomery boycott. The SCLC elected Dr. King, who had studied the nonviolent resistance of Mohandas Gandhi of India, as its president.

1957 It will not be possible to restore or to maintain order... if forcible integration is carried out tomorrow in the schools of this community. Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, who opposed the admission of nine black students to Central High School in Little Rock (September 1957) and ordered the state’s National Guard to prevent integration, in defiance of an order from a Federal Court.

1957 In any area where the federal government has assumed jurisdiction and this is upheld by the Supreme Court, there can be only one outcome: the state will lose. President Eisenhower to Governor Faubus, in Eisenhower’s memoir, Waging Peace.

1957 I tried to find a friendly face somewhere in the mob.... [A white girl] spat on me.... I saw a bench at the bus stop. When I got there, I don’t think I could have gone another step. I sat down and the mob crowded up and began shouting all over again. Just then a white man sat down beside me, put his arm around me and patted my shoulder. He raised my chin and said, “Don’t let them see you cry.” Elizabeth Eckford, one of the nine African American students attempting to integrate Central High School in Little Rock.

1957 The immediate need for federal troops is urgent.... People are converging on the scene from all directions and engaging in fisticuffs and other acts of violence. Situation is out of control and police cannot disperse the mob. Telegram from Mayor Mann of Little Rock to President Eisenhower on September 24, 1957.

1957 The situation in Little Rock situation — rebellion, the breaking of a federal law, and the flouting of federal court orders by some who were sworn to uphold the law --... could lead to a breakdown of law and order in a widening area. And around the world it would continue to feed the mill of Soviet propagandists who by word and picture were telling the world of the “racial terror” in the United States. President Eisenhower, in Waging Peace, on his decision on September 24 to send units of the 101 Airborne Division to ensure the integration of Central High School the next day.

1962 [The voting official] brought a big rule book out there, and he gave me the sixteenth section of the Constitution of Mississippi, and that was dealing with de facto laws, and I didn’t know nothin’ about no de facto laws.... I could copy it like it was in the book, but after I got through copying it, he told me to give a reasonable interpretation and tell the meaning of that section that I had copied. Well, I flunked out.... So then we started back to Ruleville.... [O]n our way back... [the police] flagged the bus down.... They arrested Bob [an organizer] and told the bus driver that he was under arrest.... The bus driver was fined $100 for driving a bus with too much yellow in it. Now ain’t that ridiculous? After we paid the fine among us, we continued to Ruleville, and Reverend Jeff Sunny carried me four miles in the rural area where I had worked as a timekeeper and sharecropper for eighteen years. I was met there by my children, who told me the plantation owner was angry because I had gone down to try to register. After they told me, my husband came, and said that the plantation owner was raising Cain because I had tried to register, and before he quit talking to me the plantation owner came, and said, “Fannie Lou, do you know — did Pap tell you what I said?” And I said, “Yes, sir.” He said, “I meant that,” he said. “If you don’t go down and withdraw your registration, you will have to leave... because we are not ready for that in Mississippi.” And I addressed him and told him and said, “I didn’t try to register for you. I tried to register for myself.” I had to leave that same night. Fannie Lou Hamer, on her attempt to take a literacy test and register to vote in Mississippi (August 22, 1964), in My Soul Is Rested: Movement Days in the Deep South Remembered by Howell Raines.

1963 For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see... that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” Rev. Martin Luther King, “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

1963 The events in Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased the cries for equality that [we cannot] ignore them.... We face therefore a moral crisis as a country.... It cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk.... The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot... enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place?... I am therefore asking the Congress to enact legislation giving all Americans the right to be served in [public] facilities. President John F. Kennedy, following the murder of Medgar Evers, state field secretary for the Mississippi NAACP ( June 11, 1963).

1963 I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation.... But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacle of segregation and the chains of discrimination. So we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.... I say to you, my friends, that even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today! This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with.... With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, “My country ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!” And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., speech at the March on Washington (August 28, 1963).

1963 We would like to be served. Anne Moody, an African American college senior who, with two friends, sat down at a “whites only” lunch counter in Jackson, Mississippi. They and a white friend with them launched the “sit-in” despite insults and punches from a white crowd.

1965 Freedom Rides Bus rides of black and white riders organized by the Congress of Racial Equality to integrate bus terminals in the South.

1965 Down Water Street we went, turning right and walking along the river until we reached the base of the bridge, the Edmund Pettis Bridge.... When we reached the crest of the bridge, I stopped dead still.... There, facing us at the bottom of the other side, stood a sea of blue-helmeted, blue uniformed Alabama state troopers, line after line of them, dozens of battle-ready lawmen stretched from one side of U.S. highway 80 to the other.... [T]he officer in charge... stepped forward, holding a small bullhorn up to his mouth. “This is an unlawful assembly.... Your march is not conducive to the public safety. You are ordered to disperse and go back to your church or to your homes.” I wasn’t about to turn around. We were there. We couldn’t turn and go back even if we wanted to.... There was only one option left that I could see. “We should kneel and pray.” We turned and passed the word back to begin bowing down in a prayerful manner. But that word didn’t get far. It didn’t have time. One minute after he issued his warning... Major Cloud issued an order... “Troopers, advance!” John Lewis, one of the leaders of the civil rights march in Selma, Alabama.

1965 [We must have] a society in which there could exist honest white-black brotherhood. Goal for America stated by Malcolm X shortly before he was murdered by an opponent’s supporter in Harlem, New York City.

1968 I may not get there with you. But... we, as a people, will get to the promised land. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Memphis, Tennessee (April 3, 1968). The following day, Dr. King was shot to death.


1953 This is our neighborhood.... We consider this part of the city to be ours.... The stores, barbershops, restaurants, butcher shops, churches, funeral parlors.... everything is Latino. Comment in El Barrio. New York’s Puerto Rican neighborhood.

2001 When I first came, I felt like a stranger, but now I feel like I am part of America. That’s all I wanted — the American dream. Karolyn Mora, who migrated from Costa Rica in 1996, at a ceremony in Austin, Texas on April 6, 2001, when 473 immigrants from 73 countries became American citizens.

2003 For guidance, let’s look back in history to a period I studied when I became a citizen. The summer of 1787. Delegates of the original 13 states were meeting in Philadelphia... Divisions were deep. Merchant against farmer. Big states against small. North against South.... What happened in that summer of 1787 is that they put their differences aside — and produced the blueprint for our government: our Constitution. Arnold Schwarzenegger, an immigrant from Austria, inaugural address as Governor of California (November 17, 2003).


1961 I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth. President Kennedy (June 1961).

1963 I was looking to the left, and I heard these terrible noises.... So I turned to the right, and all I remember is seeing my husband, he had this sort of quizzical look on his face, and his hand was up. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, remembering the instant that President Kennedy was shot in Dallas, Texas (November 22, 1963).


1964 In a land of great wealth, families must not live in hopeless poverty. In a land rich in harvest, children must not go hungry.... In a land of great learning and scholars, young people must be taught to read and write.... Our society will not be great until every young mind is set free to scan the farthest reaches of thought and imagination. We are still far from that goal. Today, 8 million adult Americans... have not finished five years of school.... We must give every child a place to sit and a teacher to learn from. Poverty must not be a bar top learning, and learning must offer an escape from poverty. President Lyndon Johnson, “The Great Society”

1964 We are going to pass a civil rights bill if it takes all summer. Warning from President Johnson to Congress.

1964 I’ll have those n----s voting Democrat for 200 years. President Lyndon B. Johnson, following passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

1965 All of us... must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome. President Johnson, speech before Congress, calling on it to pass the 1965 Voting Rights Bill.

1965 My first job after college was a teacher in Cotulla, Texas, in a small Mexican American school.... Somehow you never forget what poverty and hatred can do when you see its scars on the hopeful face of a young child.... It never even occurred to me in my fondest dreams that I might have the chance to help the sons and daughters of those students and to help people like them all over this country. But now I do have that chance — and I’ll let you in on a secret: I mean to use it. President Johnson, in a speech calling for passage of the Elementary and Secondary School Education Act of 1965.

1965 Practically none of the houses on the reservation has electricity. Half of the houses are without wells nearby. Poverty-Program workers are discovering people hauling water over fifteen miles. Indoor plumbing or telephone service is rare. There is a great deal of illness at Pine Ridge.... The infant mortality rate is twice that of the nation’s, and infectious diseases among small children are a major problem. The life expectancy for a person at Pine Ridge is thirty-eight years, compared with sixty-two years nationally.... The solution to the Indian problem still is dimly seen to lie in pouring the Indians into the big cities where they will intermingle with everyone else. But the city planners are trying to figure out how to get people out of the cramped city and back into the countryside. If the administration does not pull hard to redevelop these rural areas, it will end up merely fanning the flames in the cities. The New Republic magazine on problems at the Pine Ridge Sioux Indian Reservation (1965).

1968 Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white — separate and unequal. From the Report of the Kerner Commission, a federal investigative body looking into racial violence during the Johnson Administration.

1968 “Is God Dead?” Title of a lead article in Time Magazine, on the decline of religion in American life in the 1960s.

THE NIXON YEARS (1969-1974)

1969 That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind. Col. Neil Armstrong, first astronaut to set foot on the moon (July 20, 1969).

1972 Nixon had three goals: to win by the biggest electoral landslide in history; to be remembered as a peacemaker; and to be accepted by the “Establishment” as an equal. He achieved all these objectives at the end of 1972 and the beginning of 1973. And he lost them all two months later — partly because he turned a dream into an obsession. Henry A. Kissinger, Nixon’s Secretary of State, writing in 1977.

1972 The first paragraph of the {first Watergate story in the Washington Post] read: “Five men... were arrested at 2:30 A.M. yesterday in what authorities described as an elaborate plot to bug the offices of the Democratic National Committee.... After midnight, Woodward received a call from Eugene Bachinski, a Post reporter.... Bachinski had something from one of his police sources. Two address books, belonging to two of the men arrested inside the Watergate, contained the name a phone number of an E. Howard Hunt, with the small notations “W. House” and “W.H.” Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, in All the President’s Men (1974), their account of how they wrote the news stories that turned the Watergate break-in into a crisis that brought down the Nixon presidency. The Watergate was the apartment complex in Washington, DC, where the headquarters of the Democrat National Committee were located. The burglars traced to the Committee to Re-Elect the President were caught breaking into their office.

1974 I would only say that in some of my judgments were wrong, and some were wrong, they were made in what I believed at the time to be the best interest of the nation.... I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is complete is opposed to every instinct in my body. But as president I must put the interests of America first.... Therefore I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow. President Richard M. Nixon resigning the presidency because of the Watergate crisis (August 8, 1974).

1974 We no longer knew it, we no longer wanted to believe it. But there’s still at least one nation on this earth where the law, decidedly, is stronger than men, where, just named by the President, some judges were capable of making some decisions against him.... The idea that the President of the United States must give up his place to the liberties he took with the truth doesn’t leave [Americans] astonished. As for the Watergate scandal, we have heard much that the wiretapping at Le Canard is only a weak replica, the fact is that France has had some others.... Our old... countries... have become very indulgent toward sins. But the Americans, despite the excesses of competition and counterculture... haven’t yet loosened the cocoon of moralism, into which the puritans put their political life. French journalist André Fontaine, in the newspaper Le Monde, pointing out that the French press largely ignored government wiretapping of the satirical weekly Le Canard Enchainé, while Watergate brought down Nixon’s presidency because Europe abandoned morality while America had not.


1974 My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a Government of laws and not of men.... As we restore the internal wounds of Watergate, more painful and more poisonous than those of foreign wars,... let us restore the golden rule to our political process, and let brotherly love purge our hearts of suspicion and hate. President Gerald R. Ford, speech to the nation on August 9, 1974, the day he became president following the resignation of Richard M. Nixon.


1964 We see in the sanctity of private property the only durable foundation for constitutional government in a free society.... We do not seek to lead anyone’s life for him — we seek only to secure his rights and to guarantee him opportunity to strive, with government performing only those needed and constitutionally sanctioned tasks which cannot otherwise be performed.... Our towns and our cities, then our counties and our states, then our regional compacts — and only then the national government. That, let me remind you, is the ladder of liberty built by decentralized power. Senator Barry Goldwater, speech at the 1964 Republican National Convention, accepting the party’s nomination as its presidential candidate. Although Goldwater was soundly beaten by President Lyndon Johnson, his ideas about limited government greatly influenced Ronald Reagan, a movie actor who became a political activist campaigning for Goldwater in 1964.

1980 No, not at all. I’ve been on the same stage as John Wayne. Republican presidential Ronald Reagan, asked by a reporter if he had been nervous in the debate with President Carter.

1980 Make America Great Again Republican slogan in the 1980 election, pointing to the country’s demoralization — “malaise” according to President Jimmy Carter — during the Carter presidency.

1980 People have been talking.... Some of them in this neighborhood have been laid off for four, six months. Or their neighbor is out of work. People don’t like to see their neighbors out of work. And they’ve been scared.... The ones who’d been talking that they were for Carter, well, they changed. They were talking different. They were going for Reagan. Chicago restaurant owner Mike Savik, quoted in the Chicago Tribune after Reagan defeated President Carter (November 6, 1980).

1981?? Government is not the solution to our problems. Government is the problem. President Ronald Reagan

1981 Please tell me you’re Republicans. President Reagan to operating room surgeons after he was shot by John Hinkley (March 30, 1981).

1981 Honey, I forgot to duck. President Reagan to his wife Nancy, when she arrived at the hospital after he was shot.

1981 Ronald Reagan came to the White House with a few simple ideas but they weren’t simple-minded ideas. At that time... we had a 70 per cent top tax rate. That was really discouraging economic growth. The second big problem... was raging inflation.... And the third thing was Reagan promised to rebuild the military... and try to bring the Cold War to an end victoriously. What made Reagan such a great president... was that he came in with these three objectives and was able to accomplish them all. Economist Stephen Moore, an adviser in the Reagan administration, explaining the basis of Reaganomics, the term for the economic policies of the Reagan administration, which centered around reducing taxes, government spending and governmental regulation of businesses (“deregulation”).

1981 He was the master. No one could do what he did, move the people that way, talk to them so that they understood.... He brought a whole generation of young activists into government; they would never have been there if he hadn’t opened the doors; they are creating the new conservatism that may well shape our politics through the turn of the century. Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan, in her book, What I Saw at the Revolution.

1984 America is back — standing tall, looking [toward the future] with courage, confidence and hope. President Reagan, 1984 State of the Union Address.

1984 I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free, And I won’t forget the men who died who gave that right to me, And I’ll gladly stand right up to you and defend her still today, ‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land God bless the U.S.A. Lee Greenwood’s country hit song, “God Bless the U.S.A.,” which became the theme song of President Reagan’s 1984 re-election campaign.


1989?? Read my lips. No new taxes. George Bush, inaugural speech (January 20, 1989). President Bush had to regret this promise the next year when, after Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait, and Democrat leaders in Congress refused to increase military spending unless Bush allowed some tax increases.