What Happened Next: President Eisenhower's Response

Front page of the Arkansas Gazette reads: "Federal Troops Take Over; Ike Appeals to Arkansans."

The next day, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, outraged by the violence, ordered the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock. On September 25th, American soldiers not only dispersed the mob but also escorted the "Little Rock Nine" to school. This time, Melba Patillo recalls, "I went in not through the side doors, but up the front stairs, and there was a feeling of pride and hope that yes, this is the United States; yes, there is a reason I salute the flag; and it’s going to be okay."

Eisenhower's decision surprised many Americans. He did not favor integration. Born in 1890, he grew up in a segregated society and served for over 30 years in a segregated army. Not long after the Brown decision, he remarked, "You can’t change people’s hearts merely by laws." He also told reporters that he could not imagine a situation in which he would use federal troops to enforce integration. Yet after watching events in Little Rock, he ordered federal troops to the city to enforce the law. He told the American people: "Our personal opinions about the [Brown] decision have no bearing on the matter of enforcement…Mob rule cannot be allowed to override the decisions of our courts."

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