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Eisenhower on Civil Rights
1. What were Eisenhower's background and views on race relations?
Eisenhower was born in an all-white town in the South and spent a lot of his life in the Southern states
and in the segregated armed forces. In 1948 he told Congress that he believes in partially
segregated armed forces. He also shared white fears of mixing whites and blacks through marriage.
2. What were his political reasons for inaction?
His political party, The Republicans, had seen the damage supporting the civil rights campaign had
caused to The Democrats. The Republicans had good support and they would only suffer if they
supported the civil rights.
3. What were Eisenhower's personal relations with Blacks like?
E. Frederic Morrow was employed in 1955 as the only black person under Eisenhower's employment.
He was employed only to gain the black vote. Morrow was shocked by the administration and
Eisenhower's lack of understanding of how the Blacks felt. He was only employed for political
4. How did Eisenhower respond to the major racial incidents and violence?
Eisenhower thought that dealing with the racial incidents was a waste of time and resources. He
found them irritating and tried to ignore them as much as possible.
5. What was his approach to racial relations?
Eisenhower only bothered to meet King, Randolph and Wilkins once. He also avoided meeting Adam
Clayton Powell, who was a Congressman, because he believed he was an extremist. Overall,
Eisenhower tried to avoid anything to do with the civil rights movement.
6. What achievements did Eisenhower make? How significant were they?
Eisenhower inadvertently helped the campaign by making Earl Warren Chief Justice of the Supreme
Court. This was significant because Warren managed to help schools to become desegregated due
to his position.
7. How did Eisenhower respond to Brown?
Eisenhower refused to use federal power to enforce the Brown decision until the events at Little
Rock turned serious. His initial silence was due to his belief that the federal and judicial power should
be kept separate. He feared that, if forced to, schools would close rather than desegregate.
8. What historical opinions are there on Eisenhower's role?
Many historians date the start of the civil rights movement in the Eisenhower years, although they
disagree over which were the crucial events.
9. Why was Eisenhower finally forced to intervene in Little Rock?
Eisenhower was eventually forced to intervene after the mob that was protesting against Little Rock
became out of control and dangerous. It was necessary for Eisenhower to send in federal troops to
protect the black children from the mob. Eisenhower then made a speech over the radio to try and
keep the peace with the whites.
10. How many Blacks voted in the South?
In the South only 20% of blacks were allowed to vote.
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How and by whom was Eisenhower's 1957 civil rights bill weakened?
Democratic Senators worked to weaken Eisenhower's bill by saying that it sought to use federal
power to force white and black children to mix together. Strom Thurmond used stalling tactics to
delay the passing of the bill in congress. This led to a much weaker bill being passed.
12. What did the 1960 Act establish?
The 1960 Act made it a federal crime to obstruct court-ordered desegregation and established
penalties for obstructing black voting.…read more