When Kennedy visited Ireland in 1963, we were proud of him for being the first Irish-American and the first Catholic to be elected to the office of President of the United States. However, Kennedy and his brother Robert played a large part in advancing the rights of black Americans.
|President John F. Kennedy at the US Embassy in the Phoenix Park, now the Ambassador's Residence|
27 June 1963
Kennedy took many subtle steps to improve the civil rights situation in the US, such as bringing law suits against local officials that obstructed African-Americans trying to register to vote and asking the Washington football team to vacate their federally-funded studio unless they removed the colour bar from their recruitment policy. It was Kennedy that was in power when the Birmingham campaign took place and when marshals had to be sent to escort James Meredith into the all-white University of Mississippi. Kennedy sent 500 marshals to protect Meredith – 200 of these marshals were injured and two were shot by pro-segregationists.
Kennedy was also the first president to appoint an African American to a senior position in the White House staff. On 10 November 1960, Andrew Hatcher became Associate Press Secretary to Kennedy and only he and Pierre Salinger, Press Secretary, were seen behind Kennedy when he gave his first news conference in 1961 after taking up office.
Fifty years later, an African-American claimed the most powerful post in the White House when Barack Obama was elected as President of the United States.
|President Barack Obama in Dublin|
23 May 2011
To find out more about Kennedy's visit to Ireland, check out our digital book covering those four days, President John F. Kennedy Visits Ireland in 1963, available on the iTunes Store for €9.99.