Eisenhower and the Little Rock Crisis DBQ eLesson
The Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education (1954), with its declaration that segregated public schools were unconstitutional, overturned decades of precedent and challenged deeply-held social traditions. Southern resistance to the decision was widespread. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was not enthusiastic about federal judicial intervention in public education, but he carried out his constitutional responsibility to enforce the law by implementing desegregation in the District of Columbia. Not all state governments were quick to comply with the Supreme Court’s order to integrate “with all deliberate speed” and many fought against it openly. Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus ordered his state’s National Guard to block the entry of nine newly-enrolled African American students to Central High School in Little Rock. A violent mob gathered in front of the school, and city police failed to control it. Finally, when asked for assistance by the mayor of Little Rock, President Eisenhower believed his constitutional duty to take care that the laws were faithfully executed left him no choice but to intervene, even to the point of using military force against American citizens.
Using the sources available in this document-based question lesson, students will assess President Eisenhower’s constitutional justification for his decision to send federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce a federal court’s order to integrate public schools. In order to download the lesson, please fill out this form. You will then be directed to a downloadable PDF version of the complete lesson from our book Supreme Court DBQs, Volume II.