From Publishers Weekly
Former professor Nichols (Lincoln and the Indians
) spotlights President Eisenhower's efforts to eliminate discrimination within the definite areas of Federal responsibility, aiming to end the myth that Eisenhower was personally and politically opposed to the enactment and enforcement of civil rights legislation. Nichols builds his argument on Eisenhower's actions: desegregation of the District of Columbia and the armed forces, as well as his support of justice Earl Warren and use of the military to enforce the Brown
v. Board of Education
decision. He attributes skepticism about Eisenhower's motives to the president's restrained rhetorical style, arguing that Eisenhower's embrace of a traditional interpretation of the separation of powers led to his silences. That he was a gradualist and shared misconceptions about black people common to white politicians of his era may have played a role as well. That he called firmly for obedience to law... yet undermined that demand by asserting how little law could accomplish certainly diminished his civil rights reputation. Nichols takes potshots at Harry Truman and Warren, attributes Lyndon Johnson's actions to his presidential ambitions and John F. Kennedy's promises of progress to campaign rhetoric, giving this otherwise balanced study an opinionated bent. B&w photos not seen by PW
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"Eisenhower is one of the unsung heroes of the quest for civil rights and racial justice, and David Nichols captures the essence of his quiet leadership in this compelling, well-researched, and judicious book. Fifty years after his deft handling of the Little Rock crisis, Eisenhower gets his due in this important and readable work."
-- Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein: His Life and Universe
"A Matter of Justice is superb. This generation needs to appreciate just what President Eisenhower did to bring about a major revolution in this country, especially in his appointment of Earl Warren and great federal judges in the South. Few recognize the difficult decision he had to make in putting federal troops into Little Rock, but that action made the difference in the success of school desegregation."
-- William T. Coleman, Jr., co-author of the Brown v. Board of Education brief and former Secretary of Transportation
"This is revisionist history at its best -- provocative yet unbiased. With anyone else in the White House during the 1950s, the civil rights movement would have emerged more slowly. Nichols's brisk account is also a terrific character study of Eisenhower as a misunderstood but effective politician."
-- Jonathan Alter, author of The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope
"A Matter of Justice is a fascinating and important book. Unbeknownst to most Americans, the Eisenhower administration presided over major civil rights advances, paving the way for the better-known breakthroughs of the 1960s. David Nichols vividly narrates this crucial but hitherto unappreciated aspect of the civil rights revolution."
-- Fred I. Greenstein, author of The Hidden-Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader
"David Nichols makes a fascinating and persuasive case that President Eisenhower, for all his rhetorical flubs, made great contributions to the advance of civil rights. Deeds, not words, as Nichols puts it."
-- Anthony Lewis, former New York Times columnist and author of Gideon's Trumpet
"David Nichols has mastered the last frontier of Eisenhower revisionism -- civil rights. A Matter of Justice is a triumph."
-- Daun van Ee, editor of The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower
"David A. Nichols has written an important, revealing book about Eisenhower's extensive civil rights record. A Matter of Justice will be indispensable to future Eisenhower biographers."
--This text refers to the
-- James F. Simon, Martin Professor of Law at New York Law School and author of Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney