With the 60th Anniversary of Brown v. Board coming up, I was looking through some of my old notes and I found this memorable passage from James Patterson’s Brown v. Board of Education: A Civil Rights Milestone and Its Troubled Legacy. It takes place at the White House, prior to Brown being decided.
”At that time Eisenhower invited [Earl Warren] to a dinner at the White House and sat him next to John W. Davis, who was leading the defense team against Marshall. After telling Warren that Davis was a great American, Eisenhower took the Chief Justice by the arm and explained to him the southern point of view. Southern whites, he said, “are not bad people. All they are concerned about is to see that their sweet little girls are not required to sit in school alongside some big overgrown Negro.”
Eisenhower’s civil rights reputation has been overstated for partisan reasons on both sides—Republicans to hide the abandonment of black interests that lead to black voters fleeing to the party of the Dixiecrats, and Democrats who overstate Eisenhower’s contributions to contrast him favorably with Republicans today.