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The Speech by Hubert Humphrey that Helped Trigger Strom Thurmond's Candidacy for President in 1948

The event that triggered the formation of the Dixiecrat Party in 1948 was the hotly-fought passage of a ground-breaking plank calling upon Congress to approve a civil rights act to assure blacks of the right to vote, the right to equal employment opportunities, and the right to personal safety. Northern liberals cheered the civil rights proposal, which barely passed, but it alienated Southerners, prompting many (but not Strom Thurmond), to stage a dramatic walk out. A turning point in the battle came when Hubert Humphrey delivered a rousing speech on behalf of human rights, excerpted here:

To those who say, my friends, to those who say, that we are rushing this issue of civil rights. I say to them we are 172 years late!

To those who say, to those who say that this civil-rights program is an infringement on states' rights, I say this: the time has arrived in America for the Democratic party to get out of the shadow of state's rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights!

People, people--human beings--this is the issue of the 20th century. People of all kinds, all sorts of people, and these people are looking to America for leadership, and they're looking to America for precept and example.

My good friends--my fellow Democrats--I ask you for calm consideration of our historic opportunity.

Let us not forget--let us do forget--the evil passions, the blindness of the past. In these times of world economic, political, and spiritual--above all spiritual--crisis, we cannot--we must not--turn from the path so plainly before us. That path has already lead us though many valleys of the shadow of death. Now is the time to recall those who were left on that path of American freedom.

For all of us here, for the millions who have sent us, for the whole two-billion members of the human family--our land is now, more than ever before, the last best hope on earth. I know that we can--I know that we shall--begin here the fuller and richer realization of that hope--that promise of a land where all men are truly free and equal, and each man uses his freedom and equality wisely and well.

My good friends, I ask my party, I ask the Democratic party, to march down the high road of progressive democracy. I ask this convention, I ask this convention, to say in unmistakable terms that we proudly hail, and we courageously support, our President and leader Harry Truman in his great fight for civil-rights in America!