Interview with Bayard Rustin
QUESTION 42
INTERVIEWER:

IT'S SAID THAT JOHN KENNEDY, EVEN THOUGH THE BLACK VOTE PROBABLY ELECTED HIM IN 1960, MADE THE DIFFERENCE, HAD VERY LITTLE FEELING FOR BLACKS AND CIVIL RIGHTS--

Bayard Rustin:

I think that Kennedy was—the Kennedy crowd, in my book, are not much to be admired. John Kennedy had a great reputation, but if you look at what he achieved, I don't know what he achieved for black people. He didn't even want the civil rights bill, he did not want it to have teeth in it and it was George Meany who went to him and had teeth put in it. After we, after we were there, I mean you wouldn't—he, the Kennedys bugged Dr. King, they bugged my telephone and my F.B.I. files, which I've gotten back. It was Kennedy who taped most of the conversations between me and Martin Luther King on strategy. It was Johnson who felt deeply about black people. It was Johnson who had the skills to get through Congress the bills, and it was Johnson who gave the great Howard University speech in which he said, "Sure, you've given people the right, but now we've got to go beyond right and do something special, to help them exercise that right." That is feeling. It went far beyond mere legislation. It was he who set up the War on Poverty and tried to do something.