America in Ferment: The Tumultuous 1960s
|Eisenhower and Civil Rights||Previous||Next|
|Digital History ID 3321|
President Dwight D. Eisenhower was a reluctant battler for civil rights. Upon taking office, the Texas-born president ordered an end to segregation "in the District of Columbia, including the federal government, and any segregation in the armed forces." In 1954, he tried to persuade Chief Justice Earl Warren to avoid antagonizing the white South by ordering immediate desegregation.
Nevertheless, the president was confident that city and state officials would obey desegregation orders. "I can't imagine any set of circumstances that would ever induce me to send federal troops...to enforce the orders of a federal court, because I believe that the common sense of American will never require it," he told reporters in July 1957.
At that time, Congress was in the process of enacting the first civil rights bill since the 1880s, which would create a federal civil rights commission, a civil rights division within the Justice Department, and new federal authority to enforce voting rights.