The decision of President Dwight D. Eisenhower to send troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957 was an important milestone in progress toward ending school segregation and racial discrimination against African Americans. The president’s decisive action demonstrated that the dull force of the power of the president and the United States government would be employed to implement the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education (1954) that declared racially segregated schools unconstitutional. In the late 19th century, after Reconstruction ended, state governments in the South and some other states began passing laws restricting the rights of freed slaves in order to maintain African Americans as second-class citizens. Jim Crow laws required African American children to attend schools separate from whites. African Americans had to use racially segregated sections of waiting rooms and railroad cars and “colored only” drinking fountains and rest rooms and were banned from “white only” hotels and restaurants. A legal challenged to Jim Crow laws resulted in the ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which stated that racially segregated facilities were constitutional as long as they were equal in quality. The Court stated that the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment applied to political, not social, equality. The “separate, but equal” doctrine dominated the social and economic life of African Americans in the South for more than half a century. African Americans had become increasingly resentful of the indignities and limitations imposed by Jim Crow laws. African American veterans after World War II were especially angry serving their country in wartime only to be forced to comply with he demanding unjust laws as civilians. Many white Americans also became more sensitive to the unfairness of segregation. Three years after World War II, President Harry S. Truman desegregated the armed forces of the United States. By th…
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