34 Dwight D. Eisenhower


World War II hero Dwight D. Eisenhower became President after Truman.  Ike, as he was known, ran as a Republican, though both parties wanted him to run for them.  Taking over in 1950, Eisenhower was President during what many see as a golden age for America, though issues of the Cold War and Civil Rights still made it a period of tension.

Ike was able to negotiate a cease-fire in the Korean Conflict.  It has to be called a Conflict because Congress never declared war.  In fact, the United States Congress has not declared war since World War II.  Instead, Presidents have committed troops for periods of time, using their powers as Commander-In-Chief.  Many have expressed concern with this modern development as being a violation of the Constitution.

As President, Ike’s crowing achievement was the Interstate Highway Act that created the Interstate Highway System.  The highway changed America in several ways, most notably by creating suburbs and the mass-movement of Americans out of cities.

Also during his Presidency the Civil Rights Movement began to pick up steam.  Under his leadership two important events happened within it.  The first was the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board ruling, making segregation in schools illegal, reversing Plessy v.Ferguson.  Brown v. Board led to the Little Rock Crisis, when officials inArkansastried to prevent African-American students from attending “white” schools in that state.  Eisenhower called out the National Guard to escort the students to class, although reluctantly.

Under Eisenhower, United States involvement in Vietnam grew.  The French were defeated and Vietnam was divided like Korean into communist North and non-communist South.  The United States supported the South by providing military advisors to fight communist rebels trying to reunify the country.

During the Eisenhower years, the Space Race began when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first man-made satellite.  The Space Race was closely tied to Arms Race as the technology to launch rockets was also used to build better and better missiles.  The United States and the Soviet Union competed with each other to develop these technologies (with the Soviets dominating the early goings).

In 1959, in another major blow against containment, the Cuban Revolution happened.  Fidel Castro overthrew the unpopular, U. S. support dictatorship there, later establishing a communist government.

The anti-communist hysteria continued in the Eisenhower years.  McCarthy and the House Committee on Un-American Activities continued to accuse people of being communists.  A landmark Supreme Court case—Watkins v.United States—came out of it.  John Watkins was being questioned by the House Committee about people who might be communists.  Because they started asking about people he felt unprepared to speak about, he declined to answer.  The Committee tried to hold him in contempt.  Watkins appealed and the Court agreed that he didn’t need to answer.  Congress didn’t have unlimited power to investigate and private matters could be protected to a degree.


Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, KS (1954)

Watkins v. United States (1957)


BEFORE:  Truman         *          AFTER:  Kennedy


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