August 28, 1957: Strom Thurmond begins longest filibuster recorded to prevent The Civil Rights Act from passing
Although the United States has come a long way when it comes to providing liberty and justice for all, it has not been completely smooth sailing.
The mid-20th century was a turning point when it came to abolishing segregation laws that centered around racism against African Americans. Most notably, the Civil Rights Act of 1957 would become a stepping stone to equal rights for all — but not without a fight.
1957 was a rather monumental year
Whether it be the music and dance style of Elvis Presley or the organization of non-violent protests against segregation by Martin Luther King Jr., 1957 was literally exploding with unrest and change. Especially within Congress.
The Civil Rights Act of 1957 was the first major piece of legislation since 1875 in support of racial equality. Although it may seem like a no-brainer, some politicians were definitely not standing behind this bill. These political powers weren’t afraid to go to great lengths to prevent its passing — no matter what it took.
One senator wasn’t going down without a fight
Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina was prepared to deliver the most epic filibuster of all time — and he didn’t disappoint. Vehemently opposed to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, he decided to stage a filibuster — or political debate within Congress to prevent a vote (that would result in the passing of a bill.)
This senator pulled out all of the stops.
Senator Thurmond completed the longest spoken filibuster in all of American history. He began speaking on August 28, 1957, at 8:54 p.m. and his sleep-inducing speech wasn’t over until the next day at 9:12 p.m. He prepared by taking a steam bath earlier in the day, and he even came equipped with plenty of cough drops and malted milk tablets — because those sound so very appetizing. What Senator Thurmond discussed was even more outlandish — seriously.
Thurmond wasted no time when it came to wasting time
Thurmond spent over 24 hours reading the individual voting laws of each state, swore in a new senator from Wisconsin, spoke about jury trials, drank a glass of orange juice, and even went out to breakfast with President Eisenhower. He even read the entire Declaration of Independence — talk about using up some serious minutes.
Despite this historic filibuster and Senator Thurmond’s in-depth attempt at keeping segregation alive, the Senate still passed the bill with flying colors. Thurmond’s notorious speech didn’t sway one vote. He still holds the title for the most drawn-out filibuster of all time. Luckily, the rest of the Senate wasn’t buying it. Maybe he did change a vote or two…in favor of Civil Rights for subjecting them to such torment.