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Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Little Rock Crisis

100 min
  • Should President Dwight D. Eisenhower have used federal troops to enforce a federal court’s order to integrate schools in Little Rock, Arkansas?

Students will:

  • Understand the events leading up to and including the Little Rock Crisis.
  • Analyze President Eisenhower’s constitutional justification for his actions.
  • Assess the President’s decision to use military force to prevent violent opposition to a court order.

To create a context for this lesson, students complete Constitutional Connection: The President as Enforcer of the Law.

Have students read Handout A: Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Little Rock Crisis and answer the questions.

Project the two Little Rock Crisis images available at

Ask students for their impressions of the images:

  • What are people doing? What are people NOT doing?
  • What kinds of expressions or attitudes do you see?
  • Are there law enforcement officers present? If so, do they seem to be working to stop the violence?
  • What do these images reveal about Little Rock at the time they were taken?


Distribute Handout B: Document Based Question. With students working in pairs, or leading the class as a large group, read each of the documents and answer the scaffolding questions that follow each one.

As they progress through the documents, have students fill in the concept map on Handout C: Analyzing Documents.


Give students the entire class period to write a well-organized essay in response to the Key Question.

Debrief the class about what they have learned about the events from the first three and a half weeks of September, 1957.

Ask students for their initial responses to the key question: How would they assess Eisenhower’s constitutional justification for using federal troops to enforce a court’s order to integrate?

Have students continue to annotate Handouts B and C as needed to prepare to answer the key question during the next class.

Have students read Eisenhower’s entire radio address and summarize its key points. The document can be found at

Have students research the lives of the Little Rock Nine: Carlotta Walls, Jefferson Thomas, Elizabeth Eckford, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Pattillo, Terrence Roberts, Gloria Ray, Minnijean Brown, and Ernest Green.

Student Handouts

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