On this day in 1964, the Democratic National Convention’s credentials committee

approved a compromise that would permit the seating of an all-white Mississippi delegation plus two members of a competing, integrated delegation from that state

as Tom Wicker reported in the New York Times.

This is what happened: in the midst of Freedom Summer, black and white Civil Rights workers put together a racially integrated slate of delegates to represent the state of Mississippi, challenging the legitimacy of the customary all-white Jim Crow delegation.

Although Lyndon Johnson had lobbied for and signed the Civil Rights Act earlier in the summer, he was not so wholeheartedly committed to the cause that he wanted any disturbances at the convention that would nominate him, in his own right, for the presidency. So he (in the words of historian James Patterson) “leaned on” the credentials committee to put forth a proposal seating the segregationists as Mississippi’s delegation, plus also seating two members of the MFDP—a white one and a black one, at Johnson’s direction. And they wouldn’t vote. And the black one, Johnson said, couldn’t be Fannie Lou Hamer, who on August 22 had delivered an account of what happened to her when she encouraged other blacks to register to vote:

I was carried to the county jail…. And it wasn’t long before three white men came to my cell where they had two Negro prisoners. The state highway patrolmen ordered the first Negro to take the blackjack…. And I laid on my face. The first Negro began to beat, and I was beat until he was exhausted…. The state highway patrolman ordered the second Negro to take the blackjack. The second Negro began to beat….

Johnson didn’t want to give Hamer any more of the spotlight. Hence his efforts to give something to both sides.

But of the credentials proposal Hamer declared, “We didn’t come all this way for no two seats.” And the MFDP rejected the proposal. On the other side, segregationist Mississippi delegates left the convention. So did some Alabamans. And both states went for Arizona Republican Senator and GOP nominee Barry Goldwater in the election, along with a small band of deep south states.

Well, as Nina Simone says, “Everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam.” At the time it looked as though Johnson had isolated these relics of an older era. Of course, as Joe Crespino points out, soon these states led the way to changing the GOP and indeed the country in their own image.