On September 9, 1957 while in Newport, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the first workable civil rights legislation to be passed since the reconstruction period.
The Civil Rights Act of 1957 is known as the first federal civil rights legislation passed by the United States Congress since the Civil Rights Act of 1875. Its purpose was to show the federal government’s support for racial equality after the US Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.
The President signed the bill during his first summer stay in Newport in September 1957, when he resided at the Naval War College. Eager to return, he settled into the Summer White House, The Eisenhower House, at Fort Adams in 1958 and 1960.
“Originally proposed by Attorney General Herbert Brownell, the Act marked the first occasion since Reconstruction that the federal government undertook significant legislative action to protect civil rights. Although influential southern congressman whittled down the bill’s initial scope, it still included a number of important provisions for the protection of voting rights,” according to the Civil Rights Digital Library. “It established the Civil Rights Division in the Justice Department, and empowered federal officials to prosecute individuals that conspired to deny or abridge another citizen’s right to vote. Moreover, it also created a six-member U.S. Civil Rights Commission charged with investigating allegations of voter infringement. But, perhaps most importantly, the Civil Rights Act of 1957 signaled a growing federal commitment to the cause of civil rights”.
According to Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home, ” The new act established the Civil Rights Section of the Justice Department and empowered federal prosecutors to obtain court injunctions against interference with the right to vote. It also established a federal Civil Rights Commission with authority to investigate discriminatory conditions and recommend corrective measures. The final act was weakened by Congress due to lack of support among the Democrats”.
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