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Eisenhower and the Little Rock Crisis (1957)

60 min

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.

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

  1. The United States Constitution, Article II (1789)
  2. The Tenth Amendment (1791)
  3. The Fourteenth Amendment (1868)
  4. “Terrence Roberts and Two Arkansas National Guardsmen,” September 4, 1957
  5. Telegram from Little Rock Mayor Mann to President Eisenhower, 6:24 PM, September 23, 1957
  6. Proclamation 3204, September 23, 1957
  7. Telegram from Mayor Mann to President Eisenhower, 9:16 AM, September 24, 1957
  8. Executive Order 10730, September 24, 1957
  9. “Operation Arkansas: A Different Kind of Deployment Photo,” September 25, 1957
  10. “Bayonet Point,” September 25, 1957
  11. Eisenhower’s Address to the Nation, September 24, 1957

Read the background essay. Then, using Documents A – K and your knowledge of history and current events, 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.


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.