"A Matter of Justice: Eisenhower and the Beginning of the Civil Rights Revolution'' (Simon & Schuster, 353 pages, $27), by David A. Nichols: As the 50th anniversary of Little Rock Central High School's desegregation approaches, David A. Nichols offers a new, much-needed look at the civil rights legacy of the man who ordered troops to escort nine Black students into the all-White school.
Nichols mines newly discovered documents from Dwight D. Eisenhower's presidential library in Abilene, Kan., to argue that the 34th president doesn't get the credit he deserves for his successes on the civil rights front.
"We must look closely at what he did, not just what he said, or we will miss much of what Eisenhower was about in civil rights,'' Nichols writes.
Those actions included Eisenhower's efforts to desegregate the District of Columbia and to address employment discrimination by federal contractors and the government itself. The book also says Eisenhower deserves more credit on implementing Harry Truman's executive order to desegregate the armed forces and notes that he went even further by integrating schools for military dependents under federal control.
Nichols' book won't satisfy readers who believe Eisenhower failed to use the bully pulpit to condemn segregation and publicly challenge leaders who seemed to dominate the public arena throughout the South. But at least it will show that while he may have been muted on the issue of civil rights, he certainly wasn't silent.