Civil Rights Summit Focus on LBJ
Civil rights was the topic of discussion this week as the LBJ Library in Austin kicked off the Civil Rights Summit on Tuesday.
Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan visited with media Tuesday morning and discussed his most recent play, “All the Way,” which focuses on Lyndon Baines Johnson’s passing of the Civil Rights Act and the beginning of America’s involvement with Vietnam. In the Broadway production, Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston plays LBJ.
Schenkkan said that LBJ’s upbringing around San Marcos and the Hill Country was a key to his stance on his influential legislation.
“He had experienced poverty in his own life. His family had been successful, and then they lost everything and he knew what it meant to go without. He knew what it meant to be looked down upon because you didn’t have and you were thought as lesser and he never forgot that. I think that at an emotional core, that’s part of what made his desire to work on poverty and indeed all the great society programs. I think that’s their genesis.”
– Robert Schenkkan
Schenkkan said that LBJ spoke frequently about his time teaching in Cotulla, Texas with Mexican-American children. He said that Johnson’s time there was revelatory to him, especially on the issue of race.
“He loved those kids. He said they were dirt poor, many of them came to school hungry, but he said you know they were so eager to learn. And then there would come a moment where you would see the light in their eyes die because they realized the world hated them just because of the color of their skin. And he never forgot that.”
– Robert Schenkkan
LBJ’s ideals are ever-present in today’s talk of the fight for civil rights, whether it be for same-sex marriage, or the rights of immigrants, or the influence of gospel music.
Tara Pohlmeyer, KTSW News