From the Dean: Reflections on the Legacy of Hubert Humphrey's 1948 Civil Rights Speech

75 years ago, Humphrey challenged the Democratic Party to walk into the 'bright sunshine' of civil rights
July 14, 2023
Hubert Humphrey speaking at the 1948 Democratic National Convention
Hubert Humphrey, then mayor of Minneapolis, urging the 1948 Democratic National Convention to "get out of the shadow of states' rights and to walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights."

Dean Nisha Botchwey shared this message with  the Humphrey School community to mark the 75th anniversary of Hubert Humphrey's "Bright Sunshine" speech on civil rights.   

July 14 marks a significant milestone in the history of our nation and our state—the 75th anniversary of Hubert Humphrey's powerful speech on civil rights. This occasion is an opportunity to reflect on the historical context, significance, and enduring relevance of this seminal address.

Today, we commemorate this pivotal moment, which sparked a paradigm shift in our nation's commitment to both civil rights and human rights.

In his address to the 1948 Democratic National Convention, Hubert Humphrey—then the 37-year-old mayor of Minneapolis—passionately implored the Democratic Party to “get out of the shadow of states' rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.”

By so publicly championing civil rights, Humphrey paved the way for the party to adopt the civil rights plank to its platform, despite facing fierce opposition from some party members. This landmark decision marked a turning point in American history, laying the foundation for progressive policies and advancements in the fight for equality and justice.

The historical context of Humphrey's speech cannot be underestimated. It took place during a time of profound social and political transformation, as the nation grappled with the consequences of racial segregation and continued systemic discrimination.

Humphrey's call to action resonated far beyond the convention hall, capturing the hopes and aspirations of millions of Americans. His commitment to civil rights continued during his career in the U.S. Senate, where he led the fight for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Humphrey called its passage “one of the landmarks of my life.”

'Torchbearers of Humphrey's legacy'

Portrait of Nisha Botchwey
Dean Nisha Botchwey

The significance of Humphrey's speech extends beyond its historical moment, 75 years ago. Its core message still reverberates today, reminding us of the challenges faced in the ongoing pursuit of civil rights and social justice.

As we navigate contemporary civil rights issues today, let’s draw inspiration from Humphrey's unwavering commitment to equality. His words serve as a reminder that the fight for civil rights is an enduring endeavor that demands our continuous dedication and vigilance.

At the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, we stand as torchbearers of Humphrey's legacy. We are committed to nurturing a community that values diversity, fosters inclusivity, and champions social justice.

As we commemorate this anniversary, let us reflect on the progress made in advancing civil rights and recognize the work that remains. Let us engage in open and respectful dialogue, acknowledging diverse perspectives and working together to confront the challenges that lie ahead.

Together, let us honor Hubert Humphrey's legacy and commemorate the 75th anniversary of his pivotal civil rights speech. By understanding its historical context, embracing its significance, and recognizing its ongoing relevance, we can contribute to a more just and equitable society.

Yours in the bright sunshine,

Nisha Botchwey