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Eyes on the Prize
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Lyndon Johnson's "We Shall Overcome" speech

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African American woman placing ballot in box during the congressional primary election in Jackson, Mississippi.

On March 15, 1965, just days after the "Bloody Sunday" confrontation in Selma, Alabama that shocked the nation, President Lyndon Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress and the American people in a nationally televised speech. He announced the voting rights legislation he would be introducing. "Their cause must be our cause, too," he said, referring to civil rights activists. "[A]ll of us... must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome." In his closing words, the president invoked a rallying cry of the civil rights movement. An SCLC staffer watching the speech with Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. remembered seeing a tear of joy run down the minister's cheek. Upon passage, Johnson's legislation would be known as the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

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