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50 years after Selma: President Eisenhower’s bold civil rights record still stands out

Written By | Mar 11, 2015

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2015 — Half a century has passed since the “Bloody Sunday” tragedy in Selma, Alabama. On that day, 17 African-American civil rights protesters were beaten and bloodied by state troopers as a group of about 500 marchers attempted to make their way from Selma to Montgomery as a symbol of solidarity. The heart breaking images of one of the darkest periods in American history made the rounds on television almost immediately and brought national attention to an overflowing humanitarian crisis.

President Obama, along with noted Civil Rights leaders like Congressman John Lewis (D-GA),  was in Selma this past Saturday to honor those who stood up for equal rights. The president passionately delivered a powerful speech as he stood in front of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, nearly the same spot where one of the original march organizers, Amelia Boynton, was mercilessly beaten unconscious. While there were some expected moral inconsistencies with the President’s speech, his overall message that the struggle to end racism is not yet over was well received.

Read Also: Selma, Alabama is now meaningless

There is no doubt racism is still a reality in this country. However, an interesting side story evolved out of the events in Selma this weekend, and they speak to another less talked about reality cloaked by intellectual dishonesty and media bias.

The New York Times caught some heat for cropping former President George W. Bush out their cover story picture showing President Obama walking arm and arm with civil rights leaders. The NYT of course denied any malicious intent.  Regardless, those on the Right are understandably concerned whenever a member of the GOP is excluded in a national conversation about race and that is because over the past several decades, Republicans have been successfully mislabeled as racists by the media.

The list of examples of where Democrats have used racial division to slander the GOP goes on and on to the point where it almost isn’t even worth rehashing. Vice President Joe Biden told the world that the GOP is trying to put the country “back in chains.”

The “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” narrative in Ferguson, that the DOJ recently admitted was a lie, was simply a quick and easy way to divide people by race. Kay Hagan even went so far as to blame her Republican opponent for the death of Trayvon Martin in her failed Senate re-election campaign in North Carolina last year. It’s also important to remember the “Southern Strategy” myth that is commonly used to blame Republicans for the racism peddled by Democrats in the 50s and 60s.

The truth is, the GOP has an extensive and rich history of fighting for Civil Rights that is not only commonly overlooked but routinely associated with a complete exoneration of the Democratic Party’s ugly record of systemic racism. The party of Lincoln solidified its mere existence trying to abolish slavery. Frederick Douglass, a Republican, bravely fought against the Fugitive Slave Act, passed by Democrats. To dismiss these key examples as “ancient history” would be a disservice to the all of the brave men and women who fought for equality during that difficult time.  Republicans have a lot to be proud of as far as the Civil Rights Movement is concerned and one of the most significant points of pride can be summed up in three words:

Dwight David Eisenhower.

After the march in Selma was halted by state police on March 7, 1965, Federal Judge Frank Johnson ordered Democrat Alabama Governor George Wallace, who had mobilized police to stop subsequent attempts to complete the march, to allow the protesters to complete their journey. On March 25, the march was completed during a nationally televised rally. That judge, who ended his career with a phenomenal record of civil rights decisions, was appointed by President Eisenhower.

It should come as no surprise that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who led a second failed march attempt before the third was successful, voted for and supported President Eisenhower.

Read Also: Did New York Times crop Bush out of Selma photo?

When Orval Faubus, the Democratic Governor of Arkansas, ordered the National Guard to prevent black students from attending white schools in defiance of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, President Eisenhower acted decisively and sent a military presence into the state to allow those children to attend school. The Chief Justice who authored that historic ruling, Earl Warren, was appointed by Eisenhower.

Eisenhower appointed five supreme court justices during his two terms in office, and not one of them had an ounce of segregationist sympathies despite constant pressure from southern constituents to do so. Eisenhower was a man on a mission to fill the high courts with judges who would defend the Brown decision at all costs, and that’s exactly what he did.

The Civil Rights Act is almost always associated with President Lyndon Johnson, but that doesn’t jive with reality either. The truth is that President Eisenhower introduced and championed Civil Rights legislation as president in the late 1950s and those bills were either killed or watered down to the point of obscurity by the Democrats. Those Democrats were led by then Senate Majority Leader, Lyndon Johnson. Eisenhower battled to protect his bill for years but it wasn’t until public pressure became so great after events like the one in Selma that the Democrats finally relented and supported a clean Civil Rights Act because it was politically beneficial.

An illustration directly from President Johnson may help. He once said, “These Negroes, they’re getting pretty uppity these days, and that’s a problem for us, since they’ve got something now they never had before: the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we’ve got to do something about this — we’ve got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference.”

Cropping George W. Bush out of a picture on the cover of the New York Times may not seem like a big deal, but when it’s put in context of the Left’s perversion of facts surrounding the Civil Rights Movement, it is immensely important.

President Eisenhower was more than just a war hero and he was more than just a successful president who ushered the country through 8 years of peace and prosperity. Ike, as he was affectionately known, was a civil rights champion and the leader of a Republican party that was fighting for equal rights for all man at every turn. That rich history, and the overwhelming list of examples of Democrats placing themselves on the wrong side of that history, should not be forgotten.

An important way to make sure prominent Republican civil rights figures aren’t forgotten is to avoid cropping today’s Republicans out of pictures of historical events that their party played a key role in shaping.


Andrew Mark Miller