Re-thinking History

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)

Historiography: Eisenhower & the Cold War

  • Shortly after Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961) became president, Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin died in March followed by the end of the Korean War. These factors gave the American public the perception that a more friendly relationship would emerge between the two superpowers. However, the Cold War rhetoric never really disappeared as people and incidents on both sides kept the Cold War alive. A new arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was beginning. Eisenhower’s secretary of state, John Foster Dulles was hostile in his approach to the Soviet Union as his policy of brinksmanship and massive retaliation would curtail Soviet aggression and maintain peace. Eisenhower prescribed to the domino theory, believing that if one country fell to communism, then others around it would fall like domino's. The new leader of the Soviet Union, hard line communist Nikita Khrushchev, disturbed the U.S., as he increased Soviet nuclear energy and escalated the arms race. In 1953, the NSC (144/1) warned of a shift towards radical and nationalist regimes and contained a number of elements to protect American security and economic interests in Latin America. Following the Geneva accords of July 1954, which sanctioned the partition of Vietnam, the Eisenhower administration devoted its energies in the creation of a viable, self-sustaining state in South Vietnam. Several developments in Europe, such as the Soviet invasion of Hungry in 1956 and the Soviet demand for the U.S. to leave Berlin two years later, contributed to the Cold war tensions. Eisenhower and Khrushchev inherited problems in the Middle East, such as Suez Canal Crisis in 1956, which led to the formation of the Eisenhower Doctrine, and stated that the U.S. would send forces to the Middle East to maintain peace and check Soviet influence. In Latin America, the U.S. supported pro-American and anti-communist governments in Guatemala (Arbenz Guzman) and supported Cuban president Fulgencio Batista.

  • Chester J. Pach, Jr. and Elmo Richardson, in The Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower, (1991) argued that Dulles believed that a strong nuclear force and “massive retaliation,” would maintain peace and keep military costs down. Pach and Richardson stressed that Eisenhower decided to place more emphasis on covert operations: Iran (1952), Guatemala (1954), the 1957 delay and denial of economic and humanitarian supplies to Egypt, and a 1960 CIA plan to organize a coup against Cuba’s Fidel Castro.

  • David L. Anderson, in Trapped by Success: The Eisenhower Administration and Vietnam, 1953-1961, (1991) argued that the Eisenhower based his Vietnam policy on trivial assumptions concerning the government of Saigon, its future prospects and the importance of its survival to U.S. global strategic interests. Anderson noted that the Eisenhower administration foolishly touted the Ngo Diem regime as the miracle of Southeast Asia, which trapped successors into a commitment to the survival of its own counterfeit creation.

  • Michael W. Weis in Cold Warriors and Coups D’Etat: Brazilian-Americana relations, 1945-1964, (1993) argued that Eisenhower’s administration desired to reshape the basis of their economic relationship with Brazil following the Korean War, by terminating the Joint Commission and emphasized American leadership, economic development financed by foreign private investors and the Brazilian support of liberal capitalism.

  • Saki Dockrill in Eisenhower’s New-Look National Security Policy, 1953-1961, (1996) argued that Eisenhower’s Cold War approach went beyond questions of nuclear and conventional defense posture. Dockrill stated that Eisenhower’s national security strategy was a balance between economy and defense spending, which led to a heavier reliance on nuclear weapons, dependence on allies and a more use of covert and psychological instruments of influence.

  • The Cold War and the Color Line

  • A ‘color line’, identified by W.E.B. Dubois in 1903, with his publication of the Souls of Black Folk, shaped U.S. foreign policy in Africa during the Cold War. "The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line,—the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea. " (Souls of Black Folk, Chapter II: Of the Dawn of Freedom, 1903)

  • Henry F. Jackson, in From the Congo to Soweto: U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Africa Since 1960, (1982) argued that the injection of Cold War diplomacy into the making of African foreign policy emerged during the waning months of the Eisenhower administration. Formulated by Dulles, Cold War diplomacy in Africa was a series of manipulative maneuvers by policy makers, grounded in ethnocentrism that demanded African allegiance as a condition of U.S. assistance.

  • Thomas Borstelmann, in The Cold War and the Color Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena, (2002), argued that the foreign policy and race relations in the U.S. paralleled one another, as the changing race relations affected the way America fought the Cold War. Borstelmann noted that the racist beliefs and prejudices of American foreign policy makers, including Dean Acheson and Dwight Eisenhower, influenced U.S. policy in Africa. Borstelmann stressed that U.S. Cold War security concerns with Soviet influence were more important to American policymakers than human rights.

  • Liberation Rhetoric and the Practice of Containment: In order to meet his goals of balancing the federal budget and cutting taxes, Eisenhower was determined to control military expenditures. Eisenhower's defense strategy concentrated U.S. military strength in nuclear weapons along with the lanes and missiles needed to deliver them. In addition, the U.S. instead of spending huge amounts for large ground forces on its own, gave friendly nations American weapons. Nuclear weapons could not stop a Soviet nuclear attack, but in response to one, the U.S. could inflict enormous destruction on the USSR; this nuclear standoff became known as mutual assured destruction, or MAD. Nuclear weapons were useless, however, in defeating the "iron curtain," the nuclear weapons would destroy the very peoples that the U.S. had promised to liberate. For example, when Hungarian freedom fighters revolted against the Soviet-controlled government, the United States did not offer support.
  • Applying Containment to Vietnam: A major challenge to the containment policy came in Southeast Asia, where in 1945, a nationalist coalition, called the Vietminh, led by Ho Chi Minh, proclaimed Vietnam's independence from France. Eisenhower viewed communism in Vietnam much as Truman had regarded it in Greece & Turkey, an outlook known as the "domino theory." Although the U.S. was contributing 75 percent of the cost of France's war, Eisenhower resisted a larger role, refusing to send American ground troops to aid the French. The Vietminh defeated French forces at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954; two months later, France signed a truce that temporarily divided Vietnam at the 17th parallel, separating the Vietminh in the north from the puppet government established by the French in the South. Some officials warned against United States involvement in Vietnam. However, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles moved to join the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) to defend Cambodia, Laos and South Vietnam. Between 1955-1961, the U.S.provided nearly $800 million to the South Vietnamese army. Even with U.S. dollars, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam was grossly unprepared for the guerrilla warfare that began in the late 1950s. Eisenhower was unwilling to abandon containment and handed over the deteriorating situation to his successor, John F. Kennedy.

  • Interventions in Central America and the Middle East

  • The Eisenhower administration with the assistance of the CIA worked to topple unfriendly nations in Central America and the Middle East.

  • The Eisenhower administration employed clandestine activities in Guatemala, where the government of Jacobo Arbenz, democratically elected, was not a Communist or controlled by the Soviet Union. However, Arbenz did accept money from the local communist party. In 1954, reformist president Arbenz nationalized the land owned, but not used, by the United Fruit Company, a company that Acheson had stock in. Eisenhower authorized the CIA to carry out a covert operation, with the assistance of General Carlos Castillo Armas, that would destablized the economy of Guatemala and the government of Arbenz. The code name for this intervention was PBSUCCESS.

  • According to historian Kate Doyle, (1997) PBSUCCESS got its start when the U.S. government concluded that Arbenz was a danger of international dimensions. Although inside Guatemala, Arbenz was seen as a reformer bent only on changing the country's rigid oligarchy, Washington was nervous because he permitted the Guatemalan Communist Party to operate openly. Also, his land reform program threatened U.S. commercial interests, in particular those of the powerful United Fruit Company. U.S. concerns coalesced in covert plans to destroy the Arbenz administration. By 1952, two years after Arbenz's election, the CIA had begun recruiting an opposition force to overthrow him. The CIA first looked to the Guatemalan military for a solution. A "General Plan of Action," written in 1953, stated that the CIA regarded the military as "the only organized element in Guatemala capable of rapidly and decisively altering the political situation." The CIA chose as its lead man for the coup a disgruntled officer named Carlos Castillo Armas. The CIA was open to any means necessary to get rid of Arbenz. According to one secret report, a senior CIA official declared bluntly, "Arbenz must go; how does not matter." The intervention led to decades of destructive civil wars in Guatemala. According to the CIA's historical account, the meticulous CIA coup-plotters had "no plans for what would happen next." They considered democracy an "unrealistic" alternative for Guatemala and foresaw the best alternative as a moderate authoritarian regime that would be staunchly pro-American. But Guatemala's center quickly "vanished from politics into a terrorized silence." The violence also caught up many of the coup-makers. Just three years after his grab for power, Castillo Armas died at the hands of his own presidential guard. His successor, Gen. Manuel Fuentes, was ousted by Defense Minister Enrique Peralta Asurdia. When a small insurgency developed, Guatemala's military used U.S. military training, weapons and money to unleash a savage wave of repression that left thousands of peasants dead. The killing continued for four decades.

  • The United States tried to pursue a similar policy in Cuba, working against Fidel Castro, who in 1959 overthrew the U.S. supported dictator Flugencio Batista. The Cuban Revolution started in 1952 and lasted until 1959, with the successful removal of Batista. July 26, 1953, marked the first public activity of the most pending revolution. It was on this day that a group of revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro Ruz attacked the Cuban army barracks at Moncada.

  • Large corporations grew rich off Cuban resources, while the people starved and suffered violent atrocities, even death. Batista offered neither health care nor education to his country's people. The bulk of the people lived in great poverty while Batista and his friends lived a wealthy lifestyle. Many people opposed Batista, most importantly Fidel Castro, and his organization, M-26-7. This organization trained in Mexico until 1956, when they returned to Cuba aboard the yacht Granma. Batista's massive police and spy force had been watching Castro closely, and Batista had even granted Castro amnesty to get out of prison a few years before.

  • The large, well-equipped army of Batista could not put down the popular revolt. Batista fled the country in 1959, stealing millions of dollars. He left behind an army of 40,000 men, Castro had only a few thousand. Batista stayed in Spain until his death in 1973. Che Guevara was present during the revolution, as well as Frank Pais, who led part of the M-26-7, who remained in Cuba following the revolution. During the year 1959, the CIA began monitoring the telephone conversations of Cuban leaders. Subversive radio stations transmitted to Cuba from Miami, the Bahamas and Central America.

  • In 1953, Eisenhower authorized CIA agents to instigate a coup against the nationalist head of Iran, Dr. Mohammad Mossadeqh, for bribing army officials and paying Iranians to demonstrate against the government. According to Eric Foner, Mossadeqh nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, whose refinery in Iran was Britain's largest remaining overseas asset. The purpose was to return the Shah to power through CIA engineered protests and bribery of Iranian officers. According to historians, four major objectives led to Western intervention in the Iranian political system: to contain Communism and prevent Iran from falling to Communism, to protect Western interests in Iranian oil, to reverse the nationalization of the oil industry by the Iranian government, and to prevent a possible economic collapse in Iran.

  • The first phase was unsuccessful and the Shah fled Tehran, fearful that his life was in danger for his participation in the attempted overthrow of Mossadeqh. The second phase was more successful, and enabled the Shah to victoriously return to Iran where he then had a 25-year dictatorship supported by the United States. However, this ruling also came with the Savak, a brutal and terrifying police force that angered many Iranians and ignited hatred towards the Americans. Although the people of Iran suspected CIA involvement, the U.S. government kept the coup d’etat a secret from the American people. Operation Ajax was considered a resounding success until 1979, when the Iranians revolted against the U.S. Embassy in what became known as the Iranian Hostage Crisis. The operation was engineered by Kermit Roosevelt, the grandson of of President Theodore Roosevelt. Allen W. Dulles, the director of central intelligence, approved $1 million on April 4 to be used "in any way that would bring about the fall of Mosaddeqh."

  • In 1954, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, began talks with Egypt, concerning American support to build the Aswan Dam on the Nile River. Aswan is a city located at the first cataract of the Nile River. However, two years later, Egypt's leader, Gamal Abdel Nassar, received arms from Communist Czechoslovakia, which had formed a military alliance with other Arab nations and recognized the People's Republic of China. When Egypt concluded an arms deal with Czechoslovakia, the U.S. Secretary of State John Dulles announced the withdrawal of all U.S. funds and assistance for President Gamal Abdel Nasser's, who had come to power in the 1953 nationalistic revolution, development program. In response to this treatment by the United States and the refusal of Western powers to fund the Aswan Dam on the Upper Nile River, Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal on 26 July 1956. Nasser decision to nationalize the Suez Canal to finance the construction of the Aswan High Dam, led directly to the second Arab-Israeli War of October-November 1956. The successful co-ordinated attacks upon Suez by Israel, France, and Britain were quickly halted and a ceasefire arranged after strong UN and U.S. pressure. Although Eisenhower opposed the intervention, he did make it clear that the U.S. would actively combat communism in the Middle East, invoking the Eisenhower Doctrine. From 1958, Egypt relied increasingly upon Soviet military and economic aid. This ended Egypt's non-aligned policy and she became the principal Soviet client state in the Middle Eastern Cold War.

  • The Nuclear Arms Race: While Eisenhower's foreign policy centered on countering a perceived communist threat in the global arena, a number of events encouraged the president to reduce superpower tensions. Eisenhower and Khruschev met in Geneva in 1955 at the first summit conference since the end of WWII. In August 1957, the Soviets test-fired their first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and two months later beat the U.S. into space by launching Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to circle the earth. Eisenhower insisted that the U.S. possessed nuclear superiority and tried to diminish public panic by creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and signing the National Defense Education Act, providing assistance for students in math, foreign languages and sciences. By 1960, the two sides were within reach of a ban on nuclear testing; to avoid jeopardizing the summit, Eisenhower cancelled espionage flights over the Soviet Union, which came one day too late, as a Soviet missile shot down a U-2 spy plane over Soviet territory, ending any prospects of a nuclear agreement between the Soviet Union and the U.S. Eisenhower's "more bang for the buck" defense budget enormously increased the U.S. nuclear capacity; more than quadrupling the stockpile of nuclear weapons. When Eisenhower left office in 1960, he warned about the growing influence of the "military industrial complex," in American and government life.
  • Truman & Eisenhower approach to foreign policy: Both President Truman and President Eisenhower perceived a grave threat in the Soviet Union and the spread of communism around the world. First, with the issue of containment, Kennan's rationale for containment toward the Soviet Union enjoyed the support from key advisors and Truman, prior to Dean Acheson and NSC-68. Truman's administration pursued the development of atomic weapons, increased traditional military power, international military alliances, military and economic support for politically sympathetic countries. Truman's administration had articulated a solid policy of containment while Republicans, particularly Eisenhower's Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, criticized containment for its refusal to attack Soviet power directly, and its acceptance of the status quo. Secondly, both presidents believed that communism threatened national military and economic security and both adopted the strategies of containment to combat communism. For example, fears of the "domino effect," influenced Eisenhower's effort to support anti-Communist forces against Vietnam as well as Truman's decision to intervene in Greece. Third, Truman oversaw an enormous expansion in defense spending while Eisenhower attempted to curtail defense spending. Eisenhower called for limiting the expansion of the military in direct contrast to his predecessor. In addition, Eisenhower desired to back up conventional troops with a large nuclear arsenal. Fourth, Truman had committed troops to Korea as part of his containment polic with mixed results. However, Eisenhower refused to commit troops. Fifith, while Truman's endorsement of containment hinged on the belief that negotiation with Stalin was impossible, the pressure of the nuclear arms race and the emergence of Nikita Kruschev, following the death of Stalin in 1953, led Eisenhower to pursue a policy of diplomacy.

  • Eisenhower and the Politics of "Middle Way" : In contrast to the Old Guard conservatives of his party who desired to repeal much of the New Deal and preferred a unilateral approach to foreign policy, Eisenhower preached "modern Republicanism," maintaining the course chartered both by FDR and Truman. Eisenhower attempted to distance himself from the anti-Communist fevor that plagued the Truman administration, but refused to publicly denounce Senator McCarthy. During his administration, the "welfare state," grew and the federal government took on new project. In 1954, Eisenhower signed laws expanding Social Security and continued the federal government's modest role in financing public housing. Eisenhower's greatest domestic initiative was the Interstate Highway and the Defense System Act in 1956. In other areas, Eisenhower restrained federal activity in favor of state governments and private enterprise, resisting a larger federal role in health care, education and in civil rights. Eisenhower was forced to address the issue of civil rights with the 1957 desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

  • Termination and Relocation of Native Americans: Eisenhower's efforts to restrict federal activity also helped shape a new direction in Indian policy, reversing the emphasis on strengthening the "tribal" governments and preserving Indian culture established by the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. In 1946, during the administration of Truman, Congress established a commision to discharge any claims by indigenous peoples for lands taken from them by the government. (by 1978, 285 cases were heard and compensation exceeded $800 million.) Beginning in 1953, Eisenhower signed bills transferring jurisdiction over tribal lands in several states to state and local governments; the loss of federal hospitals, schools and other special arrangements devastated the indigenous populations. The government encouraged Native Americans to move to cities, providing one-way bus tickets and relocation centers to help with housing, job training, and medical care. About 1/3 of the indigenous population who were relocated eventally went back to the reservation and those who stayed faced difficulties, such as racism, lack of adequately paying jobs and poor housing, which created "indian ghettos."
  • The Modern Day Civil Rights Movement (Eisenhower administration): Black migration from the South to areas where they could vote and exert political pressure, cold war concerns raised by white leaders, and an organizational structure for Blacks in the segregated South all spurred black protest in the 1950s.
  • The legal strategy of the major civil rights organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, (NAACP) reached its achievement with the Supreme Court decision in 1954, with Brown v. the Board of Education, Topeka Kansas. Ultimate responsibility for enforcement of the decision lay with Eisenhower and he refused to endorse the Supreme Court decision over-turning de jure segregation in public space and facilities. The 1954 United States Supreme Court decision in Oliver L. Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka (KS) is among the most significant judicial turning points in the development of our country. Originally led by Charles H. Houston, and later Thurgood Marshall and a formidable legal team, it dismantled the legal basis for racial segregation in schools and other public facilities. By declaring that the discriminatory nature of racial segregation ... "violates the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees all citizens equal protection of the laws," Brown v. Board of Education laid the foundation for shaping future national and international policies regarding human rights. Brown v. Board of Education was not simply about children and education. The laws and policies struck down by this court decision were products of the human tendencies to prejudge, discriminate against, and stereotype other people by their ethnic, religious, physical, or cultural characteristics. Ending this behavior as a legal practice caused far reaching social and ideological implications, which continue to be felt throughout our country. The Brown decision inspired and galvanized human rights struggles across the country and around the world. What this legal challenge represents is at the core of United States history and the freedoms we enjoy. The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown began a critical chapter in the maturation of our democracy. It reaffirmed the sovereign power of the people of the United States in the protection of their natural rights from arbitrary limits and restrictions imposed by state and local governments. These rights are recognized in the Declaration of Independence and guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. While this case was an important historic milestone, it is often misunderstood. Over the years, the facts pertaining to the Brown case have been overshadowed by myths and mischaracterizations: Brown v. Board of Education was not the first challenge to school segregation. As early as 1849, African Americans filed suit against an educational system that mandated racial segregation, in the case of Roberts v. City of Boston. Oliver Brown, the case namesake, was just one of the nearly 200 plaintiffs from five states who were part of the NAACP cases brought before the Supreme Court in 1951. The Kansas case was named for Oliver Brown as a legal strategy to have a man head the plaintiff roster. The Brown decision initiated educational and social reform throughout the United States and was a catalyst in launching the modern Civil Rights Movement. Bringing about change in the years since the Brown case continues to be difficult. But the Brown v. Board of Education victory brought this country one step closer to living up to its democratic ideas.
  • The Supreme Court combined five cases under the heading of Brown v. Board of Education, because each sought the same legal remedy. The combined cases emanated from Delaware, Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington, DC. The following describes those cases:
    Delaware – Belton v. Gebhart (Bulah v. Gebhart) First petitioned in 1951, these local cases challenged the inferior conditions of two black schools designated for African American children. In the suburb of Claymont, African American children were prohibited from attending the area’s local high school. Instead, they had to ride a school bus for nearly an hour to attend Howard High School in Wilmington. Located in an industrial area of the state’s capital city, Howard High School also suffered from a deficient curriculum, pupil-teacher ratio, teacher training, extra curricular activities program, and physical plant. In the rural community of Hockessin, African American students were forced to attend a dilapidated one-room school house and were not provided transportation to the school, while white children in the area were provided transportation and a better school facility. In both cases, Louis Redding, a local NAACP attorney, represented the plaintiffs, African American parents. Although the State Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, the decision did not apply to all schools in Delaware. These class action cases were named for Ethel Belton and Shirley Bulah.
  • Kansas – Brown v. Board of Education
    In 1950 the Topeka NAACP, led by McKinley Burnett, set out to organize a legal challenge to an 1879 State law that permitted racially segregated elementary schools in certain cities based on population. For Kansas this would become the 12th case filed in the state focused on ending segregation in public schools. The local NAACP assembled a group of 13 parents who agreed to be plaintiffs on behalf of their 20 children. Following direction from legal counsel they attempted to enroll their children in segregated white schools and all were denied. Topeka operated eighteen neighborhood schools for white children, while African American children had access to only four schools. In February of 1951 the Topeka NAACP filed a case on their behalf. Although this was a class action it was named for one of the plaintiffs Oliver Brown.
  • South Carolina - Briggs v. Elliot
    In Claredon County, the State NAACP first attempted, unsuccessfully and with a single plaintiff, to take legal action in 1947 against the inferior conditions African American students experienced under South Carolina’s racially segregated school system. By 1951, community activist Rev. J.A. DeLaine, convinced African American parents to join the NAACP efforts to file a class action suit in U.S. District Court. The Court found that the schools designated for African Americans were grossly inadequate in terms of buildings, transportation and teacher’s salaries when compared to the schools provided for whites. An order to equalize the facilities was virtually ignored by school officials and the schools were never made equal. This class action case was named for Harry Briggs, Sr.
  • Virginia – Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County
    One of the few public high schools available to African Americans in the state was Robert Moton High School in Prince Edward County. Built in 1943, it was never large enough to accommodate its student population. Eventually hastily constructed tar paper covered buildings were added as classrooms. The gross inadequacies of these classrooms sparked a student strike in 1951. Organized by sixteen year old Barbara Johns, the students initially sought to acquire a new building with indoor plumbing. The NAACP soon joined their struggles and challenged the inferior quality of their school facilities in court. Although the U.S. District Court ordered that the plaintiffs be provided with equal school facilities, they were denied access to the white schools in their area. This class action case was named for Dorothy Davis.
  • Washington, DC – Bolling v. C. Melvin Sharpe
    Eleven African American junior High School students were taken on a field trip to the cities new modern John Phillip Sousa school for whites only. Accompanied by local activist Gardner Bishop, who requested admittance for the students and was denied, the African American students were ordered to return to their grossly inadequate school. A suit was filed on their behalf in 1951. After review with the Brown case in 1954, the Supreme Court ruled "segregation in the District of Columbia public schools…is a denial of the due process of law guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment…" This class action case was named for Spottswood Bolling. For more information on this, please visit
  • Eisenhower kept his distance from civil rights issues, and such inaction by the President fortified southern resistance to school desegregation and fueled the gravest constitutional crisis since the Civil War. The crisis came in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957, when the state's governor, Orval Faubus, ordered National Guard troops to block the enrollment of nine black students at Central High School. Eisenhower was forced to send in regular army troops to enforce desegregation at Little Rock-it was the first federal intervention in the South since Reconstruction. (The second federal intervention in desegregation attempts at an educational facility was at Ole' Miss, in Oxford, Mississippi during the Kennedy administration.)
  • Eisenhower ordered the integration of public facilities in Washington D.C. and on military basis and was 'forced' to support the first federal civil rights legislation, the Civil Rights Act of 1957, since Reconstruction. This act aimed to ensure that Black Americans were given the right to vote, and critics of Eisenhower suggested that the president supported this act to garner Black votes. The African American community were divided with regards to the bill. University professor, Ralph Bunche, saw the bill as a sham and stated that he would have preferred no act at all rather than the 1957 Act. However, Bayard Rustin of CORE, believed that it was important because of its symbolism - the first civil rights legislation for 82 years. Rustin argued that the bill could have been written better, but that almost certainly it was only the first of such acts that would provide a foundation for future civil rights bills.
  • Montgomery and Mass Protest: The events in Montgomery represent both the Modern Day Civil Rights Movement and the Black Radical Tradition. Both of these elements are important in understanding the demand by Black Americans to garner economic, civil and political rights in the U.S. and in the global arena. However, as scholars, we should not attempt to prove that one tradition was 'better' than the other. Rather, we need to understand that both traditions, working independently, were really working for the same goal in the U.S.: equality of Black Americans in areas of economics, political and social rights.
  • The Black Radical Tradition can be best desribed as a tree with many branches; as an expressive, philosophical and physical response to oppression, forced labor, absence of freedom or independence and violence in Diaspora. The BRT included many traditions, movements, ideas & philosophies that emerged with specific conditions & experiences of Africans in the Diaspora. According to Cedric Robinson, in Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition, (2nd edition 2000) the BRT was a response to oppression from European industrial development & experiences framed by human exploitation in New World. In addition, the BRT was the ability to conserve indigenous consciousness of the world from western intrusion, the ability too imaginatively re-create a world while being subjected to enslavement, racial domination and oppression. The BRT emerged from of the Atlantic Slave trade and was created in the Diaspora.
  • According to historian Robin D.G. Kelley, in Race Rebels: Culture, Politics and the Black Working Class, (2nd edition, 1996), public spaces were frequently embattled sites of black working-class opposition and resistance to segregation during WWII. The wartime rhetoric of democracy and freedom, undermined the legitimacy of white supremacy. White dominated spaced was undemocratic and violent as bus drivers and citizens were weapons. The segregation of the Birmingham city transit system became contested terrain as the youth, who were often servicemen, zoot suiters, militant female high school students to young house hold workers, became vehemently angered by the fact that drivers shortchanged African-Americans on change owed from fares. In response to this, many of the youth started to "make noise and talk loud," in white space. In response to this, white bus drivers supported the passage of cursing laws and resorted to violence to quell Black Americans from engaging in civil acts of disobediance.
  • The Modern Day Civil Rights movement emerged during the late forties and fifities to confront white institutions directly, with legal challenges and boycotts, to use non-violence and passive resistance to bring aout change. According to Charles Payne, in I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle, (1997) women and men such as Ella Baker, Bob Moses and Amzie Moore laid the foundation for the modern day civil rights movement through their civil rights works in the rural counties of MS. The approach to Montgomery was distinct from the BRT.
  • On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks violated a local segregation ordinance which trigered a city-wide boycott of buses. Contrary to past historical narratives which protray Parks as a weary seamstress who was tired and decided to sit down in a 'whites only' section on the bus, Parks had long been active in the local NAACP and was an early activist to free the "Scottsboro Nine," during the thirties.
  • Following her arrest, the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) organized a bus boycott, under the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr., a pastor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Two years later, in January 1957, black clergy from across the South met to coordiante local protests against segregation and disenfranchisement. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the NAACP and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) develped centers in several southern states, paving the way for a mass movement that would revolutionize the racial system in the South.
  • CORE: The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was founded in 1942 as the Committee of Racial Equality by an interracial group of students in Chicago-Bernice Fisher, James R. Robinson,James L. Farmer, Jr., Joe Guinn, George Houser, and Homer Jack.. Many of these students were members of the Chicago branch of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), a pacifist organization seeking to change racist attitudes. The founders of CORE were deeply influenced by Mahatma Gandhi's teachings of nonviolent resistance. CORE started as a nonhierarchical, decentralized organization funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of its members. The organization was initially co-led by white University of Chicago student George Houser and black student James Farmer .
  • In 1942, CORE began protests against segregation in public accommodations by organizing sit-ins. It was also in 1942 that CORE expanded nationally. James Farmer traveled the country with Bayard Rustin, a field secretary with FOR, and recruited activists at FOR meetings. CORE's early growth consisted almost entirely of white middle-class college students from the Midwest. CORE pioneered the strategy of nonviolent direct action, especially the tactics of sit-ins, jail-ins, and freedom rides. From the beginning of its expansion, CORE experienced tension between local control and national leadership. The earliest affiliated chapters retained control of their own activities and funds. With a nonhierarchical system as the model of leadership, a national leadership over local chapters seemed contradictory to CORE's principles. Some early chapters were dominated by pacifists and focused on educational activities. Other chapters emphasized direct action protests, such as sit-ins. This tension persisted throughout CORE's early existence.
  • Through sit-ins and picket lines, CORE had success in integrating northern public facilities in the 1940s. With these successes it was decided that, to have a national impact, it was necessary to strengthen the national organization. James Farmer became the first National Director of CORE in 1953. In April of 1947 CORE sent eight white and eight black men into the upper South to test a Supreme Court ruling that declared segregation in interstate travel unconstitutional. CORE gained national attention for this Journey of Reconciliation when four of the riders were arrested in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and three, including Bayard Rustin, were forced to work on a chain gang. In the aftermath of the 1954 Brown v. the Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas decision, CORE was revived from several years of stagnation and decline. CORE provided the 1955 bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, with its philosophical commitment to nonviolent direct action. As the Civil Rights Movement took hold, CORE focused its energy in the South.
  • CORE's move into the South forced the leadership to address the question of the organization's place within the black community. Though whites still remained prominent, black leaders were sought out for high profile positions. CORE remained committed to interracialism but no longer required that new chapters have an interracial membership, largely expecting little white support in the South. While middle-class college students predominated in the early years of the organization, increasingly the membership was made up of poorer and less educated African Americans. For more information, please visit