Educator Resources

Jackie Robinson, Civil Rights Advocate

MAY 13, 1958

The Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that States must integrate their public schools, but few began to do so voluntarily. Although Arkansas had begun desegregation elsewhere in its school system, in September 1957 Governor Orval Faubus, hoping to gain political favor, used National Guardsmen to block entry of nine black students who were supposed to attend Little Rock's Central High School that school term. Faubus alleged that without such action, violence would have erupted.

When President Eisenhower reluctantly sent in Federal troops to protect the students and ensure their right to be at Central High, Jackie Robinson, now a coffee and food vending executive, was reasonably pleased although he believed that decisive Presidential action on civil rights was overdue. Over the years, he had grown increasingly impatient with what he regarded as Eisenhower's failure to face up to the hard facts: Not only did racism exist, so did white efforts to physically intimidate Southern blacks who dared to challenge segregation. He therefore called upon the Chief Executive to guarantee the Federal Government's support of black attempts to exercise rights already granted under the Constitution but in practice denied them because of white resistance.



Letter to President Eisenhower
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Dwight D. Eisenhower Library
White House Central Files
Box 731
File: OF-142-A-3