1957 September 9

President Eisenhower Signs the Historic 1957 Civil Rights Act

 

Although weak by later standards, the 1957 Civil Rights Act was important as the first civil rights legislation in more than 80 years. President Dwight Eisenhower was unenthusiastic about the law, but signed it anyway. Everyone, then and now, understood that then-Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson was responsible for engineering passage of the law. Johnson genuinely believed in civil rights, and he realized that Congress simply had to act with respect to the rising national crisis over civil rights, even if the law was weak.

Most political observers believe that Johnson’s support of the law was part of his ambition to run for president in 1960 and his recognition that he had to appear as a “national” candidate and not a “Southern” one. As president, Johnson worked hard to pass both the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which he signed on July 2, 1964, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which he signed on August 6, 1965.

The 1957 law created the U.S. Civil Rights Commission to investigate and issue reports on civil rights issues. See the attempt by a Southern Congressman to defund the Civil Rights Commission on September 5, 1959, and the Commission’s report on police brutality as a national problem on November 17, 1961.

Read the best account of the struggle over the law: Robert Caro, Master Of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson (2003)

Learn About the 1957 Civil Rights Act at the Eisenhower Presidential Library:
http://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/research/online_documents/civil_rights_act.html

Learn more about the civil rights records of both President Eisenhower and President Johnson, Samuel Walker, Presidents and Civil Liberties from Wilson to Obama (2012)

Learn more about President Eisenhower: Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower (1983)

Find a Day

Go
Abortion Rights ACLU african-americans Alice Paul anti-communism Anti-Communist Hysteria Birth Control Brown v. Board of Education Censorship CIA Civil Rights Civil Rights Act of 1964 Cold War Espionage Act FBI First Amendment Fourteenth Amendment freedom of speech Free Speech Gay Rights Hate Speech homosexuality Hoover, J. Edgar HUAC Japanese American Internment King, Dr. Martin Luther Ku Klux Klan Labor Unions Lesbian and Gay Rights Loyalty Oaths McCarthy, Sen. Joe New York Times Obscenity Police Misconduct Same-Sex Marriage Separation of Church and State Sex Discrimination Smith Act Spying Spying on Americans Vietnam War Voting Rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 War on Terror Watergate White House Women's Rights Women's Suffrage World War I World War II Relocation Camps

Topics

Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear your comments, criticisms and suggestions!