Todd Purdum Discusses New Book on Civil Rights Act at CCLP

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a ground-breaking law in the United States’ history that paved the way towards ending discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex or religion.

On Thursday, April 10, the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy hosted a reception and book signing with veteran political reporter Todd Purdum, whose new book, An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties and the Battle for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, details the fascinating story behind the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

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July 2, 1964: President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr., and others, look on.

“The story behind the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Bill of 1964 is one that all Americans should know,” wrote historian and law professor Annette Gordon-Reed in her review of An Idea Whose Time Has Come. “It is a must read for all who are interested in the transformative power of the law and government to make positive changes in the lives of citizens.”

CCLP Director Geoffrey Cowan introduced Todd Purdum and moderated a spirited discussion about some of the lesser-known details that Purdum uncovered in his research on the people and politics behind the Civil Rights Act.

Purdum highlighted that although the Civil Rights Act was signed into law by Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson, Republicans like Representative William McCulloch played a critical role in gaining the Republican support required to pass the Civil Rights Act. In fact, more votes for the Civil Rights Act came from Republicans than Democrats.

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Todd Purdum discusses the unsung heroes who helped pass the Civil Rights Act at CCLP’s reception, hosted at USC’s University Club.

Guests included CCLP founding co-chair and former United States Secretary of Commerce Michael Kantor, Annenberg Journalism School Director Michael Parks, and CCLP senior fellow Richard Reeves.

“We agree on a lot of things, particularly what he said about Kennedy’s 1963 speech was unique,” said Richard Reeves about Purdum’s book, as quoted in The Daily Trojan. “The fact that the president would publicly side with the minority changed America.”

To learn more about An Idea Whose Time Has Come, listen to NPR’s recent interview with Todd Purdum.