Eisenhower lacked the rhetorical flourishes of Jack Kennedy… but when it came to defending Civil Rights in America, Ike accomplished far more than his successor. Popular history has embraced Kennedy as a Civil Rights champion and largely ignored the record of Eisenhower. This is largely due to the martyrdom bestowed on Kennedy and Ike’s measured responses to crisis.
The historical record shows Eisenhower to have the strongest Civil Rights record… since Reconstruction. But, his incremental actions and tempered statements have made it easy for Progressive historians to disregard him as just another Republican. We cannot overlook Eisenhower’s contribution to the advancement of Civil Rights in America:
- Eisenhower appointed influential Supreme Court Justices, including Chief Justice, Earl Warren. Warren, along with William Brennan and Potter Stewart, crafted some of the essential rulings that were the foundation of reform in the 1960’s. Contrary to popular belief, Eisenhower was not surprised by the Liberal direction Warren steered for the Court.
- Despite pressure from Republican Governors who supported him in 1952, Eisenhower instructed his Justice Department to file an amicus brief in support of Oliver Brown’s suit against the Topeka Board of Education.
- In his first term, Eisenhower ordered all public facilities in Washington DC to be desegregated for the first time since Wilson had segregated them in 1913.
- After negotiations with Governor Orval Faubus failed, Eisenhower sent troops from the 101st airborne to enforce the desegregation of Little Rock public schools. Southerners declared the decision an “invasion.”
- Eisenhower signed the first Civil Rights bill passed by Congress since 1875– despite the longest filibuster in Senate history carried off by South Carolina Senator and segregationist, Strom Thurmond. He later signed another Civil Rights bill in 1960 that strengthened the provisions of the 1957 bill.