Eisenhower Years (1953-61)


Brown vs Education Board of Topeka 1954

Oliver Brown was dissatisfied witht he education board of Topeka because his daughter had to travel a long way to school because she wasn't allowed in the white school. The NAACP supported Oliver Brown in his appeal to the Supreme Court. There were high hopes of success because the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court gave averdict in Browns favour. Thurgood Marshall represented Brown in the Supreme Court and he argued against the legality of segregated education. Chief Justice Earl Warren accepted the whole of Marshall's argument that segregation wasn't acceptable and saidf that segregatiomn 'generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community in a way unlikely ever to be undone.' Eisenhower was not happy with the decision. However the decision was a triumph for the NAACP because it seemed to remove all constitutional sanction for racial segregation by overturning Plessy vs Ferguson but, the Supreme Court didn't give a date for which desegregation was to be achieved. However, Brown II ruled that integration be accomplished with all deliberate speed. In reaction to this decision White Citizen Councils were formed in the South and the Southern Manifesto was signed by most Southern Politicians. As a result of the decision 70% of schools in Washington DC and border states desegregated schools. In the old Confederacy schools remained segregated. Eisenhower refused to use federal power to enforce the decision as he disliked federal intrusion into private lives. 

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Brown Case 1954


  • Was a great triumph for the NAACP's long legal campaign against segregated education.
  • In the peripheral and Urban South desegregation was introduced quite quickly. 70% of schools desegregated.
  • Removed all legislation that was for racial segregation.
  • Overturned Plessy vs Ferguson.


  • Psychologically harmful to segregate education.
  • The Supreme Court gave nodate by which desegregation had to be achieved.
  • White Citizen Councils were quickly formed throughout the South to defend segregation.
  • In the heart of the old Confederacy schools remained segregated.
  • From 1956-1959 there was a massive resistance campaign in Virginia.
  • Most Southern politicians signed the Southern Manifesto.
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Groups that affected the Brown decision

Oliver Brown

  • Oliver originally appealed to the Supreme Court. 

Earl Warren and the Supreme Court

  • Gave a verdict in Browns favour.
  • He accepted the whole of Marshall's argument that segregation was not acceptable at all.


  • Actively persuing an end to segregation in education.
  • Support Oliver Browns case.
  • Appointed their top lawyer, Thurgood Marshall, to represent Brown at the Supreme Court.
  • Taking a local grievance to the most important court in the country.
  • Attempting to overturn Plessey vs Ferguson, seperate but equal.
  • Seizing a chance to affect radical change.
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Groups that affected the Brown decision

Thurgood Marshall

  • Argued powerfully against the constitutional legality of segregated education.
  • Produced educationalists, psychologists and other professionals as witnesses.

President Eisenhower

  • Appointed Earl Warren to the Supreme Court.
  • Refused to use federal power to enforce the decision until forced to.

The South

  • Many border states agreed to desegregate.
  • Signed the 'Southern Manifesto' which made the Brown decision much harder to overcome.
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Montgomery Bus Boycott 1955

How were Montgomery buses segregated?

  • First ten rows were reserved for white passengers.
  • Black passengers couldn't sit next to white passengers.
  • Black passengers had to sit at the back of the bus.
  • If the bus got full black people had to get off. 

What happened to Rosa Parks and why did she do what she did?

  • She refused to give up her seat for a white man , she was thrown off the bus and prosecuted.
  • She was Montgomery branch secretary of the NAACP. The branch had been looking to challenge the bus segregation laws and after discarding a 15 year old pregnant girl they use Rosa Parks as a safer test case. 

What happened during the protest?

Blacks successfully boycotted Montgomery buses and demanded that the bus company use a first come, first serve basis and should be polite to black customers. No one demanded the desegregation of buses as yet. 

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Montgomery Bus Boycott 1955

How was the boycott at local level matched at a federal level?

In 1955, before the boycott began, a US federal court had given it's opinion that the Brown verdict probably applied to buses as well as schools. In June 1956 a federal district panel decreed that bus segregation was unconstitutional. 

What role did Martin Luther King play during the protest?

  • He delivered powerful speeches to the public.
  • He also helped organise the boycott alongside Bayard Rustin.

What was King's philosophy? Who was he influenced by?

  • It was Gods will that they campaigned for justice. 
  • Justice could be achieved within the American system.
  • Non-violence must be maintained.
  • During the protest King was arrested and his house was bombed. 
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Why was the Montgomery Bus Boycott so significant?

  • Black activists - Rosa Parks, MLK.
  • Organisations - NAACP, Church, MIA (Montgomery Improvement Assosiation)
  • Learnt from Baton Rouge - More organised.
  • Black determination - all willing.
  • Leader ship of activists - strategy.
  • Church sent the message out and is high in morals.
  • Womens Political Council - leaflets.
  • Black community - learn't that it's possible from Baton Rouge, prepared to follow actions. 
  • Determination.
  • Make life harder to make life easier. 
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Boycott's affect on groups and issues

SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference)

Set up in 1957 by Martin Luther King as a result of the boycott. this sought to train civil rights leaders in the South and encourage similar protests. 

Martin Luther King

King went from being an average church leader to an icon in the civil rights movement. Because of this, it helped the formation of the SCLC which then went on to aid the NAACP. 

Deep South

The boycott revealed the hatred and determined racism of many white Southerners but also highlighted the idealism of a few Southern whites like Reverand Robert Graetz who supported the boycott, which resulted in his house getting bombed.

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Boycott's affect on groups and issues

Grass roots/local community

The boycott demonstrated the power of the unity of the black community using direct but         non-violent protests. And, the black reaction to the Ku Klux Klan showed that morale had been boosted.

Supreme Court

When Montgomery city commissioners appealed to the Supreme Court they backed the Federal District Court, surprisingly supporting the blacks in ruling segregation on buses as inconstitutional. 


In Montgomery itself, the boycott was a limited victory as apart from the buses it remained segregated. However, it did inspire similar boycotts in 20 Southern cities.

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Boycott's affect on groups and issues

Non-violent protests/King's Philosophy

The boycott demonstrated the power of direct but non-violent protest. Martin Luther King stressed the importance of the protests staying non-violent but urged it was not passive resistance.

Economic Protest

It showed the importance and potential of black economic power. Black shoppers could not get downtown without the buses, so businesses lost $1 million. This meant white businessmen began to work against segregation. 

Copy cat Protests

Bus boycotts were not new: Montgomery blacks used tactics used at Baton Rouge. However, this was the longest and best organised boycott. This meant that issues that occured in previous boycotts were not repeated during the Montgomery boycott.

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Boycott's affect on groups and issues

Plessy vs Ferguson

The Montgomery buses didn't follow the seperate but equal verdict of Plessy vs Ferguson and this meant that the NAACP had a law case to back them up.


Helped the boycott by spreading the word to black people who didn't know about the boycott.

Growth in the Civil Rights Movement

Although the boycott only ended segregation on the buses and not in the city, the boycott inspired similar successful boycotts and other events such as Little Rock.

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Little Rock 1957

In 1954 the Supreme Court ruled that segregation in education was unconsitutional, 75 people then applied to enter Little Rock. 50 were rejected and 16 dropped out leaving 9 children. On 3rd September 1957 they were to enter the school together but Elizabeth Eckford didn't recieve the message and went on her own. 

Orval Faubus was the governor of Arkansas and was struggling to get reelected. He wanted to appeal to the white community by appearing to stand firm on the issue of segregated schooling. On 2nd September, Faubus went on television and predicted that if the nine entered the school "blood would run on the streets." It is argued that he was trying to instigate a reaction from the white community and created a mob riot. 

The next day the nine tried to enter the school. Eckford walked amongst white mobs and was assaulted. Faubus had declared that it was his duty to protect the children and prevent disorder. He ordered the National Guard to surround the school and keep black children out.

Eventually Ike intervened and summoned Faubus to Washington, he gave off the impression that he was going to integrate the school. In the end he didn't and Eisenhower was furious that he had mislead him and decided to act. Ike had said before that he would not use federal troops to enforce the Brown ruling but he did do. He brought the National Guard under federal control. 

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Why did Eisenhower intervene in Little Rock 1957?

  • White mobs didn't disperse 
  • Problem was spreading to Tenesse, North Carolina and Arkansas.
  • Blame and media pressure.
  • Opposition was spreading
  • Physical violence against black reporter was shown on TV.
  • Blame and media pressure
  • Governor Faubus disobeyed federal law and stopped the blacks students for entering the school.
  • Due to the positive media image of the integration, the world had high expectations of the event. 
  • The way white people reacted
  • Federal law was being undermined
  • Shocked the Country
  • The situation put America, the free country, in a bad light for the rest of the world. 
  • Meeting between Faubus and Eisenhower thought an agreement had been reached but Faubus used the Police to stop students from entering. 
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How important was the NAACP?

Founded by 1909 by Oswald Garrison Villard

Purpose of NAACP

  • Abolition of slavery.
  • Equal voting rights.
  • Educational opportunities for black people.
  • The enforcement of 14th and 15th ammendments.

Focus of the NAACP

  • Concentrated on political and legal matters.
  • Used the Supreme Court to enact Civil Rights changes.
  • Campaigned against lynching, Jim Crow Laws and sexual equality.
  • Promoted racial change through use of law courts.
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How important was the NAACP?

Early Successes

  • Campaigned against the release of the film Birth of a Nation in 1915 because of its portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan and African-Americans - some cities refused to show the film.
  • Successfully appealed to the Supreme Court to declare discriminatory laws in the south unconstitutional.
  • In 1915 the Court declared 'grandfather' clauses to be unconstitutional.
  • Membership grew quickly, there were local branches all across the country.
  • An effective pressure group to reform.

The organisation grows

  • Steady gains in membership especially during WW2 when membership grew to 450 000.
  • Increases in number of northern urban workers due to cooperation with trade unions.
  • Continued to press the Supreme Court and the House of Representatives to improve Civil Rights.
  • Campaigned in South to abolish poll tax in 1941 to make it easier for blacks to vote.
  • Local branched initiated protests against segregated lunch counters and segregated theatres.
  • NAACP becoming more activist and worked with other groups to effect change.
  • Employed elite lawyers like Thurgood Marshall who fought against segregated education and worked to involve black communists in law cases at a local level. 
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How important was the NAACP?


  • Slowly but successfully encouraged change in the USA pressure group.
  • Truman became the first President to speak to the NAACP in June 1947 where he said all Americans were entitiled to full Civil Rigths and freedom.
  • 1948, Truman administration supports NAACP in the Shelley vs Kraemer case where the Supreme Court ruled against restrictions that were used to stop blacks purchasing homes in white towns.
  • Worked to reverse Plessy vs Ferguson.
  • It won respect from moderate whites due to the way it went about changing Civil Rights.
  • Raising awareness amongst Southern Blacks by waiting at a local level.
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NAACP cases

1948 Shelley vs Kraemer - Shelley was the name of a black family from Missouri who bought a house in the city unaware of the protective covenant that restricted blacks from owning the property. Louis Kraemer who lived ten blocks away sued to stop the family from taking possession of the property. The NAACP would be pleased because the Supreme Court ruled against restrictions that were used to stop blacks purchasing homes in white areas but the ruling was ineffective.

1950 Sweatt vs Painter - Sweatt was refused admission to the School of Law of the University of Texas, no law school in Texas would admitt black students. A black law school was built but the Supremes Court didn't like it. The NAACP would be pleased because th case went to the Federal Court and they said the seperate school failed to qualify due to the differences and Sweatt went to Texas University.

1954 Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka - Brown wished for his daughter to attend the school five blocks away but it was an all white school so he had to travel to the school 20 blocks away. The NAACP would be pleased because the Supreme Court opposed segregated education but they gave no date by which it had to be achieved. 

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NAACP cases

1955 Brown II - After the initial Brown case no date was given by which desegregation was to be achieved. The NAACP went back to the Supreme Court to obtain a date. The NAACP would be pleased because they ruled that integration of schools should proceed with 'all deliberate speed.' However there was still no date for compliance.

1956 Browder vs Gayle - After the bus boycott many black activists searched for the idea case law to challenge the constitutional legitimacy of Montgomery and Alabama bus segregation laws. Browder was a Montgomery housewife and Gayle was the Mayor. The NAACP would be pleased becuase the District Court ruled that the segregation of black and white passengers on buses operating violates the constitution and laws of the US because the conditions deprived people of equal protection under the 14th Ammendment. 

1960 Boyton vs Virginia - For refusing to leave the section reserved for white people in a bus terminal, a ***** bus passenger was convicted in Virginia Courts of violating a state statue making it a misdemeanor for any person without authority of the law to remain upon the premises of another after being forgiven to do so. The NAACP would be pleased because the Supreme Court ruled that passengers were protected by the interstate commerce act meaning that he had the right to remain in the white section. 

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Greensboro 1960

Why choose Woolworths and the start of the sit ins?

It's an International store so people around the world would be aware of the protest. Also, the manager of this store had chosen to segregate the dining area. It wasn't a company policy it was left to the managers and the individual stores. 

They were impatience with the slow progress in gaining equality and found it hippocritical that the store was happy to take their money in the store but not in the restaurant. 

Initially King had nothing to do with it. The NAACP was enthusiastic about helping and disgruntled SCLC employee Ella Baker warned them not to let adults take over. 

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Greensboro 1960

Main Events

They sat at the stools in the restaurant which were only meant for white people.Each day more and more students engaged in protest, as many as 70 000 students joined these sit-ins across the South. 

As a result Woolworths desegregated all its stores lunch counters. 


The black community would sit on the stools and not actually buy anything therefore taking up space for white people who would spend money.

This proved that non-violent action could be successful if the whole of the black community came together.

Proved MLK wasn't leader for the whole of America, just certain areas. He was too cautious and therefore not respected by the students.

The SNCC was formed in 1961 as a result. 

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Significance of Eisenhower's efforts


  • His 1957 Civil Rights Act established a Civil Rigths Division in the Justice department and a federal Civil Rights Commission to monitor race relations.
  • Ordered the Arkansas National Guard to allow the nine black students into Little Rock in 1957.
  • In late 1958 he introduced another bill because he was concerned about the bombings of black schools and churches
  • He proposed to "use whatever authority exists in the office of the President to end segregation in the District of Columbia, including the Federal Government and any segregation in the armed forces."
  • In his first state of Union address he called for a combination of publicity, persuasion and conscience to help end racial segregation. 
  • He appointed Earl Warren Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1953.
  • Introduced another Civil Rigths Act in 1960. 
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Significance of Eisenhower's efforts


  • The need for national unity during the Cold War helps explain his frequent inactivity on civil rights. He did not want to antagonise the white majority.
  • Eisenhower employed one black person in his staff. White House clerks and typists used to refuse to file or type for him and Ike never consulted him on civil rights.
  • Eisenhower later regretted making the liberal Earl Warren Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
  • He was opposed to large-scale government intervention in any great issue. This is why he rejected the re-establishment of the FEPC that Truman set up during the war.
  • Ike was reluctant to make individual states enforce the 1954 Brown decision to desegregate education believing that individual states should do it themselves. 
  • Eisenhower shared the typical white fears of racial mixing.
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Turning Points 1954-1960

Montgomery Bus Boycott 1955/6 - Achieved desegregation of buses, was copied by other cities, shows economic stance, shows that organised protests and direct action works.

Brown Case 1954 - Overturned Plessey vs Ferguson, implemented within a year, ruled against the doctrine of seperate but equal, victory for NAACP's long legal campaign against segregation in schools. However, Supreme Court gave no date by which desegregation had to be achieved, White Citizen Councils were formed, Eisenhower was against the decision.

Little Rock 1957 - Putting Brown ruling into action, shows Eisenhower stepping in to intervene when Federal Law is broken. However, only 9 studednts were admitted, showed the racism of the deep south, full integration of the school didn't occur until 1972. 

NAACP 1950's onwards - Sweatt vs Painter, Rosa Parks was a NAACP representative and the NAACP took her case to the Supreme Court. However, Shelley vs Kraemer ruling was ineffective and the Brown Case was not enforced. 

Supreme Court 1950's onwards - Prepared to pass Civil Rights Acts, wrote legislations for Montgomery Bus Boycott. However, they gave no date for the Brown Case and didn't take place in protest. 

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