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What were the most significant civil rights achievements of the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations?
Which civil rights achievement of each administration had the most far-reaching effect on US? (between what Eisenhower and Kennedy)
- 3 years agoFavorite Answer
Eisenhower's greatest failure as President was his handling of civil rights. Eisenhower did not like dealing with racial issues, but he could not avoid such matters after the Supreme Court ruled in 1954 in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. Eisenhower disliked the Court's ruling, and he refused to endorse it. Although the President usually avoided comment on court decisions, his silence encouraged resistance to school desegregation. In many parts of the South, white citizens' councils organized to prevent compliance with the Court's ruling. While some of these groups relied on political action, others used intimidation and violence.
Although Eisenhower did not agree with the Supreme Court, he had a constitutional responsibility to uphold its rulings. He did so in 1957, when mobs prevented the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Governor Orval Faubus saw political advantages in using the National Guard to block the entry of the first African American students to Central High. After meeting with Eisenhower, Faubus promised to allow the students to enroll, but then he withdrew the National Guard, which allowed a violent mob to surround the school. Eisenhower dispatched federal troops and explained that he had a solemn obligation to enforce the law. Troops stayed for the entire school year, and in the spring of 1958, Central High had its first African American graduate.
Eisenhower's record included some achievements in civil rights. In 1957, he signed the first civil rights legislation since the period of Reconstruction after the Civil War. The law provided new federal protection for voting rights. In most southern states, the great majority of African Americans simply could not vote, despite their constitutional right to do so, because of literacy tests, poll taxes, or other obstacles. Yet the law required a jury trial to determine whether a citizen had been denied his or her right to vote. In southern states, where African Americans could not serve on juries, such trials were not likely to insure black access to the vote. In 1960, Eisenhower signed a second civil rights law, but it provided only small advances over the earlier law.
Kennedy pushed civil rights on many fronts. He ordered his attorney general to submit friends of the court briefs on behalf of civil rights litigants. He appointed African Americans to positions within his administration, named Thurgood Marshall to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, and supported voter registration drives.
In May, 1961, racists attacked Freedom Riders traveling by bus from Washington, D.C. to Birmingham, Alabama. Kennedy sent federal marshals to protect the protesters. But even armed marshals could not guarantee protection.
On the evening of June 11, 1963 just hours after federal marshals had escorted black students to their dormitories at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, the president delivered a televised address to the nation. Speaking with conviction, Kennedy announced he would send comprehensive civil rights legislation to Congress. The package would include provisions for access to public facilities, voting rights, and technical and monetary support for school desegregation. Five months later Kennedy was assassinated and Lyndon B. Johnson took up the fight for civil rights to fulfill Kennedy's promises.