This is the definitive account of JFK's engagement with the race issue that reveals that political cynicism caused Kennedy to neglect racial opportunities to defuse the most explosive domestic crisis of his era. "The Bystander" offers the most complete account to date of Kennedy's engagement with the cause of civil rights, from his first campaign for public office in 1946 until his death in 1963. Tracing, in narrative form, the complete scope of Kennedy's political career, Nick Bryant demonstrates that his adroit, cynical and at times brilliant handling of the race issue partly explained not just his rise to become the Democratic presidential nominee, but his victory over Richard Nixon in 1960. Bryant goes on to argue that Kennedy's mishandling of the issue thereafter encouraged die-hard white supremacists to believe they could go on defending segregation well into the 1960's, which, in turn, impelled black activists to adopt increasingly militant tactics - leading inexorably to some of the most climactic and divisive battles of the civil rights era. The first book in over three decades to examine Kennedy's record on civil rights, this is also the most comprehensive, and the first to explore in any detail Kennedy's significant engagement with this issue during the first fourteen years of his political career. The book is based on a welter of new documentary material, from Kennedy's first ever 'civil rights plank' in his 1946 campaign for Congress, to his first set-piece speech on the subject (which survives as a ragged, hand-written document). Bryant has conducted numerous interviews with former associates and administration officials, many of whom have never been consulted before.