1958 June 23

Eisenhower Meets with Four Civil Rights Leaders in the White House


President Dwight Eisenhower had been urged to meet with civil rights leaders for some time, and finally agreed to do so on this day. Attending were A. Philip Randolph, Dr. Martin Luther King, Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, and Lester Granger of the National Urban League. The meeting was cordial, even though the civil rights leaders had been critical of the president’s lack of leadership on racial justice. Eisenhower, for example, had failed to give a strong endorsement to the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision declaring separate but equal schools unconstitutional (May 17, 1954).

The great African-American baseball star Jackie Robinson, who was normally not politically active, publicly criticized Eisenhower on May 13, 1958 for his lack of leadership on civil rights. The group at the meeting on this day presented him with a list of demands, but Eisenhower did not act on any of them.

The meeting had been urged by E. Frederic Morrow, who on July 10, 1955 had become the first African-American aide to a sitting president of the United States.

Read the White House memo about the meetinghttp://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/research/online_documents/civil_rights_eisenhower_administration/1958_06_23_Meeting_of_Negro_Leaders.pdf

Learn more about civil rights pressure on the federal government in the 1950s: http://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/us-civil-rights-activists-campaign-federal-government-action-1957-63

Learn more about President Eisenhower’s civil rights and civil liberties record: Samuel Walker, Presidents and Civil Liberties From Wilson to Obama (2012)

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