Dwight David Eisenhower

Dwight David Eisenhower


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



I am surprised that “living Constitutionalists” do not

more frequently  point up the ugly fact that the original intent

of the founders was not egalitarian.



Books by Wilson Jeremiah Moses

Golden Age of Black Nationalism, 1850-1925 (1988)  / The Wings of Ethiopia  (1990)

 Alexander Crummell: A Study of Civilization and Discontent (1992)  / Destiny & Race: Selected Writings, 1840-1898  (1992) 

 Black Messiahs and Uncle Toms: Social and Literary Manipulations of a Religious Myth (1993)

Liberian Dreams: Back-to-Africa Narratives from the 1850s  / Afrotopia: The Roots of African American Popular History (2002)

Creative Conflict in African American Thought (2004)

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Dwight David Eisenhower

The White Booker T. Washington

By Professor Wilson J. Moses


During a small meeting of a dozen scholars arranged by Professor Stephen Tuck at The University of Oxford April 6-9, 2006, addressing the impact of the Second World War on the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, I experienced a minor epiphany concerning the memory of that movement in both the academic consciousness and in that of the general public.  In particular, I reflected on the images and myths surrounding Dwight D. Eisenhower, Louis Armstrong, Norman Rockwell, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X.  I recalled that prior to 1957, Louis Armstrong was dismissed as an “Uncle Tom.”  But “Satchmo” terrified  his supposedly more militant critics, when during the 1957 Little Rock school crisis, he cancelled a government sponsored tour of the Soviet Union and accused General Eisenhower of lacking the guts to move decisively.  Armstrong’s public image underwent two subsequent transmogrifications.  By the late 1960s, a new generation of militants had arisen. Many among this group were black nationalists, and thus less inclined to value desegregation.  Some of them were to renew denunciations of Louis Armstrong as a “handkerchief head.”  Not until the early 2000s was “Pops” rehabilitated as a champion of civil rights

During the 1950s, Norman Rockwell was dismissed by intellectual dandies  as a sentimental “illustrator,” not a true artist.  To be sure, most of Rockwell’s work was unrelated to reform politics.  Add to that the fact that during the 1950s the State Department and the CIA conspired to undermine social realism in American Art, closing ranks with the trendy crowd to boost abstract expressionism (Pollock, De Kooning, and all that).  A few eccentric souls are beginning to allow that Rockwell’s  “The Problem we all Face,” showing Ruby Bridges in 1960, being escorted by federal marshals into the William Frantz school in New Orleans, may not be devoid of merit.  Of course, Rockwell’s depiction of burly white men, protecting a black child was not the iconography that leftist radicals or right-wing Black Muslims were seeking in the sixties.

With respect to Little Rock, the myth is widely disseminated that Eisenhower sent the troops purely and simply to maintain law and order. 

This position is absolutely indefensible.  In a universally broadcast speech, Eisenhower pointedly invoked the human rights provisions of the UNITED NATIONS CHARTER as a justification for sending in the troops.  Of course he regretted having to resort to military action!  And who would not?  Eisenhower’s action was criticized at the time by the governor of Texas for taking a military action that was “undemocratic.”  When Senator John F. Kennedy was asked about it his response was rambling,  inarticulate and squishy.  (Second Joint Radio-Television Broadcast)

It is among the more striking ironies of American history that the post World War II civil rights movement got its biggest push from the least democratic branches of government, the executive and the judiciary, and under the leadership of a conservative former general, in the Whig tradition.

Liberals and conservatives alike, constantly invoke private conversations and spurious anecdotes to argue that Eisenhower was a segregationist.   Frequently they interpret the inconclusive recollection of Stephen Ambrose (based on a private unconfirmable conversation) to assert that Ike regretted the Warren appointment, and, by implication, the Brown Decisions.    The direct and public evidence is as follows:  1. Eisenhower affirmed the correctness of the Brown decision in his published memoirs, A Mandate for Change.   2. He appointed liberal federal judges, Elbert Tuttle, John Brown, John Wisdom, Warren Jones, Simon Sobeloff, Clement Haynesworth.  3. He appointed Herbert Brownell as Attorney General, and, when Brownell resigned, he appointed Brownell’s very assertive comrade in arms, William Rogers.   The inescapable conclusion is that the expansion of the powers of the federal government to enforce civil rights and the positioning of the Federal government on the side of the Civil Rights struggle was effected with Eisenhower’s knowledge and consent.

Many people dismissed the importance of the symbolism involved, and claimed that the Civil Rights Act of 1957 was itself, merely symbolic.  In fact, Lyndon Baines Johnson pulled the teeth of the Administration’s original version of the bill in the Senate.  Under provision III of the unbutchered version of the 1957 Civil Rights Act, Attorney General, Herbert Brownell sought the power to bring class action suits in cases involving the right to vote.  Under provision IV Brownell sought the power to bring “injunctions against actual or threatened interference with the right to vote.”  These were removed because Johnson knew he could not get it through the Senate.  Both of Eisenhower’s Attorneys General, Herbert Brownell and William P. Rogers, vigorously championed the bill and Eisenhower endorsed it, with all four (4) of its original provisions, in his 1956 State of the Union Address.  Neither Kennedy nor Johnson found it convenient to advance its more vigorous provisions until much later.

With respect to the class action aspect of the 1957 Civil Rights Act, it is self-evident that the Eisenhower administration’s insistence on class actions and class remedies are not only appropriate, but crucial to African Americans.  Justice Roger B. Taney (an official of the American Colonization Society) accurately stated in Dred Scott  v. Sandford, that black people were conceived as a separate and subordinate “class” by the authors of the Declaration, and by most signatories to the Constitution.   Those conservative legalists who constantly inveigh against class-based remedies for racial discrimination, calling them inconsistent with the nation’s founding principles, conveniently, and hypocritically, overlook their own cherished principle of “original intent.”  I am surprised that “living Constitutionalists” do not more frequently point up the ugly fact that the original intent of the founders was not egalitarian.  Taney inadvertently demonstrated with unintended irony that equal opportunity must depend on both a living constitution and class based remedies. 

Surfing the internet, I note much contradiction concerning Eisenhower’s stance on Brown II.   Some sites imply that he was the source of the “all deliberate speed” doctrine; others are not so certain, either as to the doctrine’s source or as to its meaning.   Eisenhower said that he did not openly endorse the Brown v Board of Education decision, although he tacitly did so in his State of the Union Address of 1956.  In fact, his actions spoke eloquently for him.  He accorded African Americans the same treatment that he accorded his closest friends, George C. Marshall, for example.  When Marshall was attacked by the detested Joe McCarthy, Eisenhower avoided militant posturing, and kept his personality out of the conflict, until eventually he was able to torpedo McCarthy and his unamerican activities.   He fought segregation in the same Machiavellian way that Booker T. Washington once had, until he became the first president since Reconstruction to sign a Civil Rights act, and the first since Reconstruction to invite black leaders to the White House.  After signing the Civil Rights Act of 1957, Eisenhower had the courage to be photo-graphed with Martin Luther King, as in the photo below.

It was with more “deliberate speed” that Malcolm X found the courage to be photographed with King.  Indeed, it took him seven years! Malcolm and the Nation of Islam, known for their thinly-veiled references to “Uncle Tom Preachers,” were reputedly backed by Dallas segregationist, H. L. Hunt, who was rumored to have been involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  Malcolm belittled and disparaged King’s and Eisenhower’s activities, until 1964, insisting that intelligent black people did not want integration.  Louis Lomax, the black journalist, who revealed Hunt’s backing of the Nation of Islam, was killed when his car was forced off the road in Arizona. The former Malcolm Little, quondam Detroit Red, erstwhile Malcolm X, and born-again Malik Shabazz, eventually found it useful to exploit a “surprise” meeting, where he was photographed grinning (And is that a foxy wink?) as he shook hands with King. 

Few people ever saw this myth-making photograph while either man was alive. It was practically unknown until David Lewis published it in his 1970 biography of King.  Indeed, one early biographer of King went so far as to claim that the two men never met.   Today the icon is used to foster a false historical memory of a unity of aims that never existed, even after Shabazz modified his black nationalism.

The opinion is carefully nurtured that Eisenhower was a bumbling segregationist, who signed the 1957 Civil Rights Bill against his will, and whose motivation in sending the army to Little Rock was no more than  a military officer’s rage at a challenge to his authority, and a fear for his image when Louis Armstrong publicly questioned his fortitude.  Seldom challenged is Stephen Ambrose’s assertion that Eisenhower regretted naming Earl Warren Chief Justice.  Eisenhower was supposedly oblivious to the liberal opinions of his other judicial appointees; desegregated Washington, D. C. in a senile daze; had no commitment to the United Nations Charter and its human rights provisions; had the wool pulled over his eyes by two Attorneys General over the course of eight years.  Such views (reminiscent of the smear campaign conducted by Jeffersonians on George Washington) defy common sense, and endow private gossip with greater authority than public actions.

The reasons why Eisenhower is not credited with his Administration’s civil rights accomplishments are twofold:  Present-day Republicans are embarrassed by, and hostile to, the “judicial activism” of the Warren Court, as well as the executive activism of Eisenhower’s Attorneys General.   Democrats deny Eisenhower any credit because he was a Republican.   It’s that simple.   Martin Luther King, Louis Armstrong, and Norman Rockwell have all been rehabilitated.  Dwight David Eisenhower deserves the same treatment. Like Booker T. Washington, he was a Machiavellian fox circumspectly, but “deliberately,” supporting civil rights.  He was  “The White Booker T. Washington.” 

Copyright Ó 2006 by Professor Wilson J. Moses, Penn State University,

posted 21 May 2006

Books by Charles C. Mann

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created


Civil Rights and Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower / Book Review: JFK Why England Slept

List of federal judges appointed by Dwight D. Eisenhower / Civil Rights and Presidents: Kennedy and Johnson

The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power (

Robert Caro) /

Q&A with Robert Caro

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Why England Slept by John F. Kennedy  

It is difficult to read Why England Slept without seeing the shadow of the future president hanging over every word.  Most prophetic indeed is Henry Luce’s foreword, which notes on p. xiv: “In recent months there has been a certain amount of alarm concerning the “attitude” of the younger generation. If John Kennedy is characteristic of the younger generation—and I believe he is—many of us would be happy to have the destinies of this Republic handed over to his generation at once.” For it is Kennedy, after all, who launched the Peace Corps, challenged his country to land a man on the moon, and stirred countless young Americans with his optimistic talk of a New Frontier.  Young Jack Kennedy had Destiny infused in every fiber of his being.—TaoYue

New York: Funk, July 1940.  / Reprinted by Greenwood Press, 1981. ISBN 0313228744.

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A Matter of Justice

Eisenhower and the Beginning of the Civil Rights Revolution

By David. A. Nichols

David A. Nichols  takes us inside the Oval Office to look over Ike’s shoulder as he worked behind the scenes, prior to Brown, to desegregate the District of Columbia and complete the desegregation of the armed forces. We watch as Eisenhower, assisted by his close collaborator, Attorney General Herbert Brownell, Jr., sifted through candidates for federal judgeships and appointed five pro-civil rights justices to the Supreme Court and progressive judges to lower courts. We witness Eisenhower crafting civil rights legislation, deftly building a congressional coalition that passed the first civil rights act in eighty-two years, and maneuvering to avoid a showdown with Orval Faubus, the governor of Arkansas, over desegregation of Little Rock’s Central High. Nichols demonstrates that Eisenhower, though he was a product of his time and its backward racial attitudes, was actually more progressive on civil rights in the 1950s than his predecessor, Harry Truman, and his successors, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. . . .  In fact, Eisenhower’s actions laid the legal and political groundwork for the more familiar breakthroughs in civil rights achieved in the 1960s.

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The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story

of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government

By Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer

American democracy is informed by the 18th century’s most cutting edge thinking on society, economics, and government. We’ve learned some things in the intervening 230 years about self interest, social behaviors, and how the world works. Now, authors Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer argue that some fundamental assumptions about citizenship, society, economics, and government need updating. For many years the dominant metaphor for understanding markets and government has been the machine. Liu and Hanauer view democracy not as a machine, but as a garden. A successful garden functions according to the inexorable tendencies of nature, but it also requires goals, regular tending, and an understanding of connected ecosystems. The latest ideas from science, social science, and economics—the cutting-edge ideas of today—generate these simple but revolutionary ideas: (The economy is not an efficient machine. It’s an effective garden that need tending. Freedom is responsibility. Government should be about the big what and the little how. True self interest is mutual interest.

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The White Masters of the World

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Ancient African Nations

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update 13 May 2012 




Home    Wilson Jeremiah Moses Table  Civil Rights: Struggle for Black Power

Related files: Military Industrial Complex   Dwight David Eisenhower   Military Intervention in Ivory Coast    Black Chaplains  Black Chaplains 2   Buffalo Soldier   

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