Day By Day

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Remembering Ike

One of the great injustices of recent history has been the tendency of those who chronicle the Civil Rights reforms of the mid-twentieth century to overlook the degree to which Republicans advanced the cause of racial equality. One of the greatest proponents of civil rights legislation was President Dwight D. Eisenhower but his contribution has been generally neglected.

David Nichols, writing in the New York Times, notes how the history of the era has been systematically distorted so as to minimize Eisenhower's contributions and to give undeserved credit to Democrats, most importantly Lyndon Johnson.

He writes:

Eisenhower complained in 1967 that if his critics felt “there was anything good done” in his presidency, “they mostly want to prove that it was somebody else that did it and that I went along as a passenger.” That has been especially true of his championship of civil rights.

The “somebody else” in this instance was Lyndon B. Johnson, who in 1957 was the Senate’s Democratic majority leader. Historians have consistently credited Johnson for the bill’s passage. Yes, Johnson played a role, but hardly the one his advocates might imagine: Eisenhower and his attorney general, Herbert Brownell Jr., first proposed strong legislation, and it was Johnson and his Southern cronies who weakened it beyond recognition.

Read the whole thing here.