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Eagleton Institute of Politics - 60th Anniversary
Eagleton Institute of Politics


E-Gov: Archive of American Politics

Brown vs the Board of Education

Little Rock, AR
Troops from the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division disperse a crowd in front of Little Rock's Central High School.
Image Source: Library of Congress

In its 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the United States Supreme Court held that segregation of children in the public schools solely on the basis of race, pursuant to state laws permitting or requiring such segregation, denied black children the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. The unanimous decision provoked widespread criticism, and occasional defiance, by public officials in states with segregated schools, and emerged as one of the dominant political issues affecting politics and public policy throughout the nation for many years.

Despite his own reported misgivings about the decision, in 1957 President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered that troops under federal authority enforce a lower federal court order issued pursuant to the Brown decision directing the integration of the public schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. In a televised address, the President stated that he was forced to act because "...disorderly mobs have deliberately prevented the carrying out of proper orders from a Federal Court" and that local authorities had failed to enforce the order or to disperse the crowds blocking black students from entering the schools. The President thus issued orders directing that the Arkansas National Guard be placed under federal control and that 1,000 U.S. Army paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division be sent to assist them in restoring order. The troops succeeded in quelling the disturbances, and the schools were opened for integrated enrollment.


Eisenhower and the Little Rock Crisis, Library of Congress

Little Rock School Integration Crisis, Dwight D. Eisenhower Library & Museum