LBJ Sends Federal Troops to Alabama

LBJ Sends Federal Troops to Alabama

On March 20, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson notifies Alabama’s Governor George Wallace that he will use federal authority to call up the Alabama National Guard in order to supervise a planned civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery.

Intimidation and discrimination had earlier prevented Selma’s Black population–over half the city–from registering and voting. On Sunday, March 7, 1965, a group of 600 demonstrators marched on the capital city of Montgomery to protest this disenfranchisement and the earlier killing of a Black man, Jimmie Lee Jackson, by a state trooper.

In brutal scenes that were later broadcast on television, state and local police attacked the marchers with billy clubs and tear gas. TV viewers far and wide were outraged by the images, and a protest march was organized just two days after “Bloody Sunday” by Martin Luther King, Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). King turned the marchers around, however, rather than carry out the march without federal judicial approval.

READ MORE: Civil Rights Movement Timeline

After an Alabama federal judge ruled on March 18 that a third march could go ahead, President Johnson and his advisers worked quickly to find a way to ensure the safety of King and his demonstrators on their way from Selma to Montgomery. The most powerful obstacle in their way was Governor Wallace, an outspoken segregationist who was reluctant to spend any state funds on protecting the demonstrators. Hours after promising Johnson—in telephone calls recorded by the White House—that he would call out the Alabama National Guard to maintain order, Wallace went on television and demanded that Johnson send in federal troops instead.

Furious, Johnson told Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach to write a press release stating that because Wallace refused to use the 10,000 available guardsmen to preserve order in his state, Johnson himself was calling the guard up and giving them all necessary support. Several days later, 50,000 marchers followed King some 54 miles, under the watchful eyes of state and federal troops.

Arriving safely in Montgomery on March 25, they watched King deliver his famous “How Long, Not Long” speech from the steps of the Capitol building. The clash between Johnson and Wallace—and Johnson’s decisive action—was an important turning point in the civil rights movement. Within five months, Congress had passed the Voting Rights Act, which Johnson proudly signed into law on August 6, 1965.

WATCH: Rise Up: The Movement that Changed America on HISTORY Vault


This Is What LBJ Did When He Heard that MLK Had Been Killed

Kyle Longleyis the Snell Family Dean's Distinguished Professor of History and Political Science at Arizona State University. He is the author of numerous books, including LBJ’s 1968: Power, Politics, and the Presidency in America’s Year of Upheaval(Cambridge, 2018).

LBJ meeting with civil rights leaders Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Whitney Young, and James Farmer in the Oval Office in 1964.

On April 4, 1968, LBJ observed: “The world that day seemed to me a pretty good place.”

But, as he prepared to attend a Democratic fundraiser that evening, a note arrived reading: “Mr. President: Martin Luther King has been shot.”

Shortly after, another message came: “Mr. President: “Justice has just advised that Dr. King is dead.”

LBJ lamented, “I rarely have felt that sense of powerlessness more acutely than the day Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed.”

Immediately, Johnson started planning a special address to a joint session of Congress to present a comprehensive program for African-Americans. LBJ told Califano, “We’ve got to show the nation that we can get something done.”

Aides were unenthusiastic, so a frustrated, LBJ barked: “Goddamn it, this country has got to do more for these people, and the time to start is now.”

Here was one of many times over the next few days that Johnson showed empathy and concern toward African-Americans. He wanted desperately to quell the violence through action.

During a meeting the following day, LBJ acknowledged the feelings of the protestors. “If I were a kid in Harlem. I know what I’d be thinking right now: I’d be thinking that the whites have declared open season on my people, and they’re going to pick us off one by one unless I get a gun and pick them off first.”

Publicly, however, he promoted conciliation and progress, telling a national audience: “We have rolled away some of the stones of inaction, of indifference, and of injustice,” but “our work is not yet done. But we have begun.”

Soon, calls came for federal troops to quell the disorder in cities, including Washington, D.C. Despite cries for harsh actions, Johnson remained committed to preventing additional bloodshed. He told one aide: “I don’t want Americans killing Americans. I may not be doing the popular thing, or even the right thing, but no soldier in Washington has killed a civilian yet.”

But, even as he tried limiting bloodshed, LBJ maintained a sense of humor. Reports circulated that Stokley Carmichael had organized a march on the “posh” homes in Georgetown of the newspaper editors and columnists who loved to criticize Johnson.

The president smiled when he read the report and bellowed, “Goddamn! I’ve waited thirty-five years for this day!”

As troops flooded into other cities, including Baltimore and Chicago, the president and his staff continued working on a series of proposals for Congress, totaling more than $5 billion.

But there was also realism on what Congress might accept. One aide emphasized: “What’s the use of escalating the demands for the Negro when Congress won’t move on what we’ve already sent up there?”

But central to the matter was the inability to formulate a reasonable proposal, despite LBJ desperately wanting to do so. One advisor remembered LBJ receiving a sheaf of paper with recommendations. His face sagged as he characterized them as “all vanilla they wouldn’t begin to touch our problem.”

Then, he cut to the heart of the issue. “Until we all get to be a whole lot smarter, I guess the country will just have to go with what it has already.”

Despite the absence of a grand plan, the president succeeded in one area, the Fair Housing Act. For years, he had pushed it despite strong opposition from various constituencies, including realtors.

However, after much politicking by the White House, the bill passed. LBJ proudly stressed, “through the process of law, we shall strike for all time the shackles of an old injustice.”

While happy, LBJ wanted more: “I call upon the Congress to now complete its work of hope for millions of Americans” by passing other measures so that “we can move forward with our programs of social justice and progress.” But little occurred as a lame duck president battled an increasingly conservative Congress in an election year.

Nevertheless, in 1972, Johnson rose at a civil rights conference at his presidential library and said: “Let’s watch what’s been done, and see it is preserved, but let’s say we have just begun, and let’s go on. Until every boy and girl born in this land, whatever state, whatever color, can stand on the same level ground, our job will not be done.”

Less than a month later, he died. However, the empathy and desire to address the challenges of African-Americans and others disadvantaged remained on display in 1972, just as in 1968. Their echoes remain in many today, even fifty years later.


Contents

On May 10, 1963, negotiators for the city, local businesses, and the civil rights campaign had completed and announced the "Birmingham Truce Agreement." The agreement included city and business commitments for partial desegregation (of fitting rooms, water fountains, and lunch counters in retail stores), promises of economic advancement for African-American workers, release of persons who had been arrested in demonstrations, and the formation of a Committee on Racial Problems and Employment. In an afternoon press conference held at the Gaston Motel, where King and his team were staying, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth read a version of the agreement, after which King declared a "great victory" and prepared to leave town. [1] However, some white leaders, including the city's powerful Commissioner of Public Safety Bull Connor, who had used dogs and firehoses against demonstrators, denounced the agreement and suggested that they might not enforce its provisions. [2]

On the morning of May 11, 1963, state troopers were withdrawing from Birmingham under orders from Governor George Wallace. Investigator Ben Allen had been alerted about a potential bombing of the Gaston Motel by a source within the Klan and recommended that these troops stay for a few more days. Allen's warning was disregarded by state Public Safety Director Al Lingo, who said he could "take care of" the Klan threat. [3] Martin Luther King, Jr., left Birmingham for Atlanta. [4]

Also during the day on May 11, Klan leaders from across the South were assembling in nearby Bessemer, Alabama for a rally. Klan Imperial Wizard Robert Shelton addressed the white crowd, urging rejection of "any concessions or demands from any of the atheist so-called ministers of the nigger race or any other group here in Birmingham." [4] He also said that "Klansmen would be willing to give their lives if necessary to protect segregation in Alabama." [5] The crowd was, reportedly, unenthusiastic, as they were demoralized by the momentum toward desegregation. [6] The rally ended at 10:15 pm. [7]

At 8:08 PM that evening, the Gaston Motel received a death threat against King, [ citation needed ]

At around 10:30 PM, a number of Birmingham police departed the parking lot of the Holy Family Hospital, driving toward the home of Martin Luther King's brother, A. D. King, in the Ensley neighborhood. Some police traveled in an unmarked car. [8]

A. D. King residence Edit

At about 10:45 PM, a uniformed officer got out of his police car and placed a package near A. D. King's front porch. The officer returned to the car. As the car drove away, someone threw a small object through the house's window onto the sidewalk, where it exploded. The object created a small but loud explosion and knocked over bystander Roosevelt Tatum. [7] [9]

Tatum got up and moved toward the King house—only to face another, larger, blast from the package near the porch. This explosion destroyed the front of the house. Tatum survived and ran toward the back of the house, where he found A. D. King and his wife Naomi trying to escape with their five children. [7] [9]

Tatum told King that he had seen police deliver the bombs. King called the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), demanding action against the local police department. [10]

Gaston Motel Edit

At 11:58 PM, a bomb thrown from a moving car detonated immediately beneath Room 30 at the Gaston Motel—the room where Martin Luther King had been staying. The Gaston Motel was owned by A. G. Gaston, an African-American businessman who often provided resources to assist the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Attorney and activist Orzell Billingsley had intended to sleep in Room 30 because he was exhausted from days of negotiation and his wife was throwing a party at the couple's house. However, he was so tired that he fell asleep at home after stopping there for clothes. [11]

The motel bomb could be heard all over town. It interrupted the singing of children in the juvenile detention center, most of whom had been arrested during the civil rights demonstrations. Next, the children heard the sound of white men repeatedly singing "Dixie" over the jail's loudspeakers. [12]

Bryan McFall of the FBI was expecting his Klan informant Gary Rowe to report at 10:30 PM, immediately after the end of the Klan rally. [12] McFall searched in vain for Rowe until finding him at 3:00 AM in the VFW Hall near the Gaston Motel. Rowe told McFall, his FBI handler, that Black Muslims had perpetrated a false flag bombing in order to blame the Klan. McFall was unconvinced. [13] However, in submitting his final report to J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, McFall did not identify the Klan as potentially responsible for the bombing, nor did he question the credibility of Rowe as an informant. [14]

Contemporary historians widely believe that the bombing was carried out by four Klan members, including Gary Rowe and known bomber Bill Holt. [15] Rowe was already suspected by the Klan to be a government informant, and other members may have compelled him to assist with the bombing in order to test his fidelity to the white supremacy cause. [12]

Many African-American witnesses held police accountable for the bombing of the King house, and immediately began to express their anger. Some began to sing "We Shall Overcome," while others began to throw rocks and other small objects. [16] More people mobilized after the second blast. As it was Saturday night, many had been celebrating the agreement that had been reached and had been drinking. Many of them were already frustrated with the strategy of nonviolence as espoused by Martin Luther King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference and turned to violence. Three African-American men knifed white police officer J. N. Spivey in the ribs. [17]

Several reporters who had been drinking at the bar got into a shared rental car and headed toward the commotion. A crowd of about 2,500 people had formed and was blocking police cars and fire trucks from the Gaston Motel area. [18] A fire that started at an Italian grocery store spread to the whole block. As traffic started to move, Birmingham Police drove their six-wheeled armored vehicle down the street, spraying tear gas. [19] An unexplained U.S. Army tank also appeared. [20]

At 2:30 AM, a large battalion of state troopers, commanded by Al Lingo and armed with submachine guns, arrived on the scene. About 100 were mounted on horses. These troops menaced any African-Americans remaining in the street, as well as the white journalists, who were forced into the lobby of the motel. [20] Hospitals treated more than 50 wounded people. [21]

The white journalists and a group of blacks were sequestered in the bombed motel (with no food or water) until morning. [22] Heavily armed forces continued to patrol the streets, "giving this industrial city . " (in the words of one newspaper report) "the appearance of a city under siege on this Mother's Day." [23]

U.S. President John F. Kennedy ended a vacation at Camp David (near Thurmont, Maryland) early in order to respond to the situation. [24] Conflicted about whether to deploy federal troops, Kennedy wanted to save face after the violence in Birmingham became covered as international news, and he wanted to protect the truce that had just been established. At the same time, he did not want to set a precedent that might compel routine military interventions, and he feared a backlash among southern white Democrats who opposed a federal "invasion." [25] In Kennedy's opinion, however, in Birmingham "the people who've gotten out of hand are not the white people, but the Negroes by and large," thus making intervention more palatable. [26]

Over TV and radio, Kennedy announced that the "government will do whatever must be done to preserve order, to protect the lives of its citizens . [and to] uphold the law of the land." He raised the alert for troops on nearby military bases and suggested that the Alabama National Guard might be federalized. He also dispatched Department of Justice attorney Burke Marshall, who had just returned to Washington, D.C. after helping to broker the Birmingham Truce. [27] The Army mission to Birmingham, titled Operation Oak Tree, was headed by Maj. General Creighton Abrams and headquartered with the FBI in the Birmingham federal building. [28] At the operation's peak (on May 18), about 18,000 soldiers were placed on one-, two-, or four-hour alert status, prepared to respond to a crisis in the city. [29] [30]

Governor Wallace learned of Operation Oak Tree on May 14 and complained. In response, Kennedy quietly shifted the Operation's headquarters to Fort McClellan while a handful of officers remained behind at the federal building. [31] Wallace complained again, to the Supreme Court. The Court responded that Kennedy was exercising his authority within U.S. Code Title X, Section 333, stating: "Such purely preparatory measures and their alleged adverse general effects upon the plaintiffs afford no basis for the granting of any relief." [31]

Perceived inefficiencies of the operation led the Joint Chiefs of Staff to draft a memo on preparedness for domestic civil disturbances. According to this memo, the newly created Strike Command should be able "to move readily deployable, tailored Army forces ranging in size from a reinforced company to a maximum force of 15,000 personnel." [32] The Strike Command designated seven Army brigades (amounting to about 21,000 soldiers) as available to respond to civil unrest. [33] The Operation also led the military to increase its efforts at autonomous intelligence gathering, as well as collaboration with the FBI. [34]

Birmingham activist Abraham Woods considered the disorder to be a "forerunner" to the 1967 wave of riots that followed passage of civil rights legislation and expressed protest at the slow rate of change. [35] Operation Oak Tree was the first time in modern United States history that the federal government deployed military power in response to civil unrest without a specific legal injunction to enforce. [30]

New York City Congressman Adam Clayton Powell warned that if Kennedy did not move quickly on civil rights in Birmingham, as well as nationally, then riots would spread throughout the country, including to the capital in Washington, DC. [36] Malcolm X affirmed Powell's warning, as well as his criticism of the president. [37]

Malcolm cited the federal response to the Birmingham crisis as evidence of skewed priorities: [38]

President Kennedy did not send troops to Alabama when dogs were biting black babies. He waited three weeks until the situation exploded. He then sent troops after the Negroes had demonstrated their ability to defend themselves. In his talk with Alabama editors Kennedy did not urge that Negroes be treated right because it is the right thing to do. Instead, he said that if the Negroes aren't well treated the Muslims would become a threat. He urged a change not because it is right but because the world is watching this country. Kennedy is wrong because his motivation is wrong.

Malcolm X later said in his well-known Message to the Grass Roots speech:

By the way, right at that time Birmingham had exploded, and the Negroes in Birmingham —— remember, they also exploded. They began to stab the crackers in the back and bust them up 'side their head —— yes, they did. That's when Kennedy sent in the troops, down in Birmingham. So, and right after that, Kennedy got on the television and said "this is a moral issue."

Malcolm X's evaluation is largely confirmed by modern scholarship. Nicholas Bryant, author of the most comprehensive study of President Kennedy's decision-making on civil rights policy, notes that during the predominantly nonviolent Birmingham campaign, Kennedy refused to make a commitment to forceful intervention or new legislation. He resisted the influence of the powerful, internationally publicized photograph of a police dog tearing into an African-American youth. The legislative situation was hopeless, he claimed, and he did not think the events in Birmingham would influence the voting intentions of a single lawmaker . While Kennedy recognized the potent symbolic value of the [police dog] image, he was unwilling to counteract it with a symbolic gesture of his own." [39] Bryant concludes:

It was the black-on-white violence of May 11 - not the publication of the startling photograph a week earlier – that represented the real watershed in Kennedy's thinking, and the turning point in administration policy. Kennedy had grown used to segregationist attacks against civil rights protesters. But he – along with his brother and other administration officials – was far more troubled by black mobs running amok. [40]

Timothy Tyson affirms this position, writing that "The violence threatened to mar SCLC's victory but also helped cement White House support for civil rights. It was one of the enduring ironies of the civil rights movement that the threat of violence was so critical to the success of nonviolence." [41] This relationship has been noted by numerous other historians, including Howard Zinn, [42] Clayborne Carson, [43] Glenn Eskew [44] and Gary Younge. [45]

Declassified recordings of a White House meeting on May 12, 1963 are often cited in support of this view:

Robert Kennedy: The Negro Reverend Walker . he said that the Negroes, when dark comes tonight, they're going to start going after the policemen - headhunting - trying to shoot to kill policemen. He says it's completely out of hand . you could trigger off a good deal of violence around the country now, with Negroes saying they've been abused for all these years and they're going to follow the ideas of the Black Muslims now . If they feel on the other hand that the federal government is their friend, that it's intervening for them, that it's going to work for them, then it will head some of that off. I think that's the strongest argument for doing something .

President Kennedy: First we have to have law and order, so the Negro's not running all over the city . If the [local Birmingham desegregation] agreement blows up, the other remedy we have under that condition is to send legislation up to congress this week as our response . As a means of providing relief we have to have legislation. [46]


LBJ sends federal troops to Alabama: 1965

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson notifies Alabama’s Governor George Wallace that he will use federal authority to call up the Alabama National Guard in order to supervise a planned civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery.

Intimidation and discrimination had earlier prevented Selma’s black population–over half the city–from registering and voting. On Sunday, March 7, 1965, a group of 600 demonstrators marched on the capital city of Montgomery to protest this disenfranchisement and the earlier killing of a black man, Jimmie Lee Jackson, by a state trooper. In brutal scenes that were later broadcast on television, state and local police attacked the marchers with billy clubs and tear gas. TV viewers far and wide were outraged by the images, and a protest march was organized just two days after “Bloody Sunday” by Martin Luther King, Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference SCLC. King turned the marchers around, however, rather than carry out the march without federal judicial approval.

President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After an Alabama federal judge ruled on March 18 that a third march could go ahead, President Johnson and his advisers worked quickly to find a way to ensure the safety of King and his demonstrators on their way from Selma to Montgomery. The most powerful obstacle in their way was Governor Wallace, an outspoken anti-integrationist who was reluctant to spend any state funds on protecting the demonstrators. Hours after promising Johnson–in telephone calls recorded by the White House–that he would call out the Alabama National Guard to maintain order, Wallace went on television and demanded that Johnson send in federal troops instead.

Participants, some carrying American flags, marching in the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Furious, Johnson told Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach to write a press release stating that because Wallace refused to use the 10,000 available guardsmen to preserve order in his state, Johnson himself was calling the guard up and giving them all necessary support. Several days later, 50,000 marchers followed King some 54 miles, under the watchful eyes of state and federal troops. Arriving safely in Montgomery on March 25, they watched King deliver his famous “How Long, Not Long” speech from the steps of the Capitol building. The clash between Johnson and Wallace–and Johnson’s decisive action–was an important turning point in the civil rights movement. Within five months, Congress had passed the Voting Rights Act, which Johnson proudly signed into law on August 6, 1965.


The Insurrection Act of 1807 has been invoked 14 times in US History

Washington DC, President Trump’s threat to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 means the statute could be used for the first time in the 21st century.

The U.S. federal law allows the president to deploy military troops within the nation to suppress civil disorder, insurrection and rebellion, among other threats. It allows the president to federalize the National Guard and use U.S. armed forces to combat insurrections against states and the federal government.

The law, signed by President Thomas Jefferson, has been invoked 14 times, most recently in 1992 by President George H. W. Bush in response to the Los Angeles County riots after the Rodney King verdict.

Four Los Angeles police officers were found not guilty of using excessive force during a violent arrest of King, a decision that sparked race riots and violence throughout the nation.

In modern times, presidents have typically assumed the power to deal with the American agony of racial conflict, even relying on the provision to uphold federal civil rights in the Deep South.

In 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower called on the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division to safely escort nine black students into Little Rock Central High School after the Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus, using the Arkansas National Guard under the guise of maintaining peace, tried to prevent the students from entering the school.

President John F. Kennedy invoked the Insurrection Act in 1962 and 1963 to send federal troops to Mississippi and Alabama to enforce civil rights laws. In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson sent the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions to Detroit when deadly riots broke out between police and residents and again invoked the law in 1968 in response to protests sparked by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

And in 1992, President George H.W. Bush responded to a request from Gov. Pete Wilson of California to help quell rioting in Los Angeles after the acquittal of the four LAPD officers who brutally beat Rodney King.

The act was revised after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to expand presidential power and though contemplated for use in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Bush administration used other authorities to send thousands of active duty troops to New Orleans.


LBJ sends federal troops to Alabama to protect a civil rights march

Lt Col Charlie Brown

campaign=hist-tdih-2021-0320
On March 20, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson notifies Alabama’s Governor George Wallace that he will use federal authority to call up the Alabama National Guard in order to supervise a planned civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery.

Intimidation and discrimination had earlier prevented Selma’s Black population–over half the city–from registering and voting. On Sunday, March 7, 1965, a group of 600 demonstrators marched on the capital city of Montgomery to protest this disenfranchisement and the earlier killing of a Black man, Jimmie Lee Jackson, by a state trooper.

In brutal scenes that were later broadcast on television, state and local police attacked the marchers with billy clubs and tear gas. TV viewers far and wide were outraged by the images, and a protest march was organized just two days after “Bloody Sunday” by Martin Luther King, Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). King turned the marchers around, however, rather than carry out the march without federal judicial approval.

READ MORE: Civil Rights Movement Timeline

After an Alabama federal judge ruled on March 18 that a third march could go ahead, President Johnson and his advisers worked quickly to find a way to ensure the safety of King and his demonstrators on their way from Selma to Montgomery. The most powerful obstacle in their way was Governor Wallace, an outspoken segregationist who was reluctant to spend any state funds on protecting the demonstrators. Hours after promising Johnson—in telephone calls recorded by the White House—that he would call out the Alabama National Guard to maintain order, Wallace went on television and demanded that Johnson send in federal troops instead.

Furious, Johnson told Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach to write a press release stating that because Wallace refused to use the 10,000 available guardsmen to preserve order in his state, Johnson himself was calling the guard up and giving them all necessary support. Several days later, 50,000 marchers followed King some 54 miles, under the watchful eyes of state and federal troops.

Arriving safely in Montgomery on March 25, they watched King deliver his famous “How Long, Not Long” speech from the steps of the Capitol building. The clash between Johnson and Wallace—and Johnson’s decisive action—was an important turning point in the civil rights movement. Within five months, Congress had passed the Voting Rights Act, which Johnson proudly signed into law on August 6, 1965.


LBJ sends federal troops to Alabama - Mar 20, 1965 - HISTORY.com

TSgt Joe C.

Here's the lead story on March 20th.

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson notifies Alabama’s Governor George Wallace that he will use federal authority to call up the Alabama National Guard in order to supervise a planned civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery.

Intimidation and discrimination had earlier prevented Selma’s black population–over half the city–from registering and voting. On Sunday, March 7, 1965, a group of 600 demonstrators marched on the capital city of Montgomery to protest this disenfranchisement and the earlier killing of a black man, Jimmie Lee Jackson, by a state trooper. In brutal scenes that were later broadcast on television, state and local police attacked the marchers with billy clubs and tear gas. TV viewers far and wide were outraged by the images, and a protest march was organized just two days after “Bloody Sunday” by Martin Luther King, Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). King turned the marchers around, however, rather than carry out the march without federal judicial approval.

After an Alabama federal judge ruled on March 18 that a third march could go ahead, President Johnson and his advisers worked quickly to find a way to ensure the safety of King and his demonstrators on their way from Selma to Montgomery. The most powerful obstacle in their way was Governor Wallace, an outspoken anti-integrationist who was reluctant to spend any state funds on protecting the demonstrators. Hours after promising Johnson–in telephone calls recorded by the White House–that he would call out the Alabama National Guard to maintain order, Wallace went on television and demanded that Johnson send in federal troops instead.

Furious, Johnson told Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach to write a press release stating that because Wallace refused to use the 10,000 available guardsmen to preserve order in his state, Johnson himself was calling the guard up and giving them all necessary support. Several days later, 50,000 marchers followed King some 54 miles, under the watchful eyes of state and federal troops. Arriving safely in Montgomery on March 25, they watched King deliver his famous “How Long, Not Long” speech from the steps of the Capitol building. The clash between Johnson and Wallace–and Johnson’s decisive action–was an important turning point in the civil rights movement. Within five months, Congress had passed the Voting Rights Act, which Johnson proudly signed into law on August 6, 1965.


Voting Rites

Thirty-five years ago this month, with Selma, Alabama, erupting in violence over the issue of race, LBJ changed the course of history.

ON MARCH 13, 1965, Lyndon Johnson met with George Wallace in the Oval Office. Six days earlier, in a confrontation that would come to be known as Bloody Sunday, the nation had watched in horror as Alabama state troopers attacked more than six hundred black activists who were marching from Selma to Montgomery. Armed only with the desire to vote, the marchers were turned back with nightsticks and tear gas. Wallace, in his first term as Alabama&rsquos governor, had designs on national office and hoped to salvage his reputation Johnson was under pressure to send in federal troops. With protesters outside the White House criticizing his apparent inaction &mdash some carrying signs that read &ldquoLBJ, Just You Wait, See What Happens in &rsquo68&rdquo &mdash the president directed Wallace to a soft couch. Nearly a foot shorter than Johnson, he promptly sank into its cushions. The president pulled up a rocking chair and leaned in close. The Johnson treatment had begun.

Over the next three hours, LBJ pressed Wallace on the issue of race. Careful not to let the governor play the martyr for states&rsquo rights, he cajoled and flattered him. When the president asked him why he wouldn&rsquot integrate the schools and let black residents register to vote, Wallace said that he didn&rsquot have the power. Johnson thundered in response, &ldquoGeorge, don&rsquot you shit me as to who runs Alabama.&rdquo In the end Johnson questioned Wallace&rsquos place in history: &ldquoGeorge, you and I shouldn&rsquot be thinking about 1965 we should be thinking about 1985. . . . Now, you got a lot of poor people down there in Alabama . . . a lot of people who need jobs, a lot of people who need a future. You could do a lot for them. Now, in 1985, George, what do you want left behind? Do you want a great big marble monument that says &lsquoGeorge Wallace: He Built&rsquo? Or do you want a little piece of scrawny pine lying there along that harsh caliche soil that says &lsquoGeorge Wallace: He Hated&rsquo?&rdquo

Shortly after the meeting, Wallace agreed to ask the president to send in federal troops. The governor, who just two years before had declared, &ldquoSegregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,&rdquo would later say, &ldquoHell, if I&rsquod stayed in there much longer, he&rsquod have had me coming out for civil rights.&rdquo On March 15, Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress to propose what would become the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It was a bill he had always wanted, for reasons political and personal: Its passage would signify that a Southern president &mdash this Southern president &mdash had broken the longstanding traditions that had kept blacks from voting and the South from gaining equal moral and economic status with the rest of the nation.

Thirty-five years later, the effects of that landmark legislation can still be felt. In the 2000 presidential race, for instance, Democratic candidates Al Gore and Bill Bradley have made minority issues a centerpiece of their campaigns, embracing everything from affirmative action to the removal of the Confederate flag flying above the South Carolina statehouse. Republican front-runner George W. Bush, meanwhile, is pushing the big tent theory &mdash that the GOP can prosper only if it appeals to minorities indeed, he has appointed blacks and Hispanics to top jobs in his campaign, just as he has tapped them for prominent posts in state government. For all that, and for other advances in race relations, LBJ&rsquos leadership was crucial.

How did Johnson become the president, as he liked to say, who finished what Lincoln started? Although as a congressman and a senator he had seemingly grown more and more conservative, withholding support for civil rights bills, he did an about-face in 1957. Maybe it was his yearning to be a national politician who could run for president maybe it was his lifelong identification with underdogs. Whatever the case, as the Senate majority leader, he shepherded President Dwight D. Eisenhower&rsquos civil rights legislation past a group of hostile senators &mdash the first bill of its kind passed since Reconstruction. Four years later, as John F. Kennedy&rsquos vice president, he spoke out even more forcefully on the issue. Yet when JFK sent a sweeping civil rights bill to Congress in June 1963, Johnson was outraged that he was barely consulted. Unhappy in the political shadows, Johnson told one of his aides, &ldquoMy future is behind me.&rdquo A tragic November day in Dallas would change all that.

Within hours of taking office, Johnson was laying the groundwork for his accidental administration. &ldquoWe got to his home at nine-thirty or ten o&rsquoclock that night, so he had only been president for about nine hours,&rdquo says Jack Valenti, who was a special assistant to LBJ. &ldquoI spent the night with him, as did [aides] Cliff Carter and Bill Moyers. We were all grouped in his bedroom, and until four in the morning, the three of us sat around his bed. He was in his pajamas, and we watched television as the commentators discussed this alien cowboy who was now the leader of the free world. He said, &lsquoThe first thing I&rsquom going to do is get that tax cut. Then I&rsquom going to pass Kennedy&rsquos civil rights bill, which has been languishing too goddammed long.&rsquo Then he said, &lsquoI&rsquom going to get another bill that&rsquos going to make it possible for everybody to vote without being harassed or having to pay money.&rsquo The germ of the Voting Rights Act was squirming around in his head on the first night that he was president.&rdquo

Johnson moved on Kennedy&rsquos civil rights bill, which seemed to have a slim chance of passing. &ldquoWhat Kennedy didn&rsquot do was put his political capital on the line,&rdquo says Valenti. &ldquoJohnson believed that the Kennedy administration didn&rsquot seize the moral authority.&rdquo To legitimize his position as a president for all the people, Johnson marshaled the full force of his office. Advisers told him to wait until after the 1964 election, if ever, to make his push. Johnson refused. He twisted arms, bargained with enemies, and ran roughshod over friends like Richard Russell, the Georgia senator who was most responsible for his rise to power in the Senate. Even the longest filibuster in Senate history &mdash by a bloc of Southern senators &mdash couldn&rsquot prevent passage of the bill. Though most of the voting rights provisions had been gutted, the bill outlawed discrimination in public places and in employment and brought an end to &ldquocolored&rdquo restrooms and segregated lunch counters. It was an extraordinary victory, though it was never entirely Johnson&rsquos. When Robert F. Kennedy gave an aide a pen that Johnson had used to sign the legislation on July 2, 1964, he inscribed the following words: &ldquoPen used to sign President Kennedy&rsquos civil rights bill.&rdquo

The night that the bill became law, with the 1964 presidential election just four months away, Johnson realized how his leadership might destroy the Democratic party in the South. Sitting on his bed among newspapers that chronicled the day&rsquos historic event, he told Moyers, &ldquoI think we just delivered the South to the Republican party for a long time to come.&rdquo In November Landslide Lyndon received 61 percent of the popular vote, more than any other candidate in the twentieth century. But despite his victory over Barry Goldwater, it was already clear that LBJ&rsquos premonition was coming true. Goldwater, who had opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, carried only six states. One was his home state of Arizona. The other five were Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.

As Johnson prepared for his first full term, he focused on problems that would affect the nation by the year 2000. He formed task forces to provide solutions to such problems as funding for education and inadequate health insurance for the elderly. He deliberately stayed away from civil rights, even though he wanted a voting rights bill. &ldquoHe believed there needed to be a pause in the effort,&rdquo says Johnson biographer Robert Dallek. &ldquoHe worried that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would produce violent opposition in the South, though he was wrong on that count: Violence never materialized.&rdquo Still, in December he privately instructed Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach to begin looking into legislation that could be introduced when the time was right. &ldquoI tried to slow him down,&rdquo Katzenbach recalls today, &ldquobut he wanted his own civil rights bill.&rdquo With Katzenbach working behind the scenes, LBJ waited for a reason to move forward.

Martin Luther King, Jr., gave him one. On the day after the presidential election, King told the New York Times that he was ready to organize marches across the South in an effort to secure black Americans the right to vote. In Mississippi only 6 percent of eligible blacks were registered. In Alabama only about 20 percent were registered, but in Selma, it was fewer than 1 percent for that reason, the city would become a focal point. Starting in January, black protesters met with violence at the hands of white police officers, and they were arrested in great numbers. Newspapers tallied the results: &ldquoDr. King and 770 Others Seized&rdquo &ldquo520 More Seized.&rdquo One state trooper reportedly told a marcher, &ldquoSing one more freedom song and you are under arrest.&rdquo On the day King was released from jail, an ad written in his voice appeared in the Times: &ldquoThere are more Negroes in jail with me than there are on the voting rolls.&rdquo

By February King was urging Johnson to act, but the president moved cautiously. Johnson knew that back-to-back civil rights bills could cause an electoral backlash, not only in the South but across the rest of the country. And despite calls for federal troops to protect the protesters, he stood firm: sending soldiers in would cause the Democratic party to lose every white Southern vote. Johnson argued that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 needed time to work, but he said that Congress would receive a voting rights bill by year&rsquos end.

That timetable quickly changed. On February 26 a black protester died after being shot by a state trooper in Selma. March 7 brought Bloody Sunday, and two days later a white minister sympathetic to the civil rights movement was beaten by a white mob he died the next day. Selma came to a boiling point, and Johnson was criticized for his slow reaction by the same activists he wanted to help. He knew he had to act with Wallace in line, it was finally time. &ldquoJohnson was a great believer in timing,&rdquo says Valenti. &ldquoAfter Selma, he seized that moment like a trout going after a fly.&rdquo

In his address to both houses of Congress on March 15, LBJ said, &ldquoWhat happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and state of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause too. Because it&rsquos not just Negroes, but really it&rsquos all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.&rdquo Appropriating the language of the civil rights movement itself, he added, &ldquoAnd we shall overcome.&rdquo Congress responded with a standing ovation.

The Voting Rights Act passed the Senate on May 26, the House on July 9. On August 6 Johnson signed it into law. In typical fashion, he did so in the same room in which Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation. So many people wanted a pen commemorating the day that LBJ used different ones for different parts of the letters in his name. And for good reason: The bill was in many ways more important than the Civil Rights Act. It suspended all literacy tests in seven of the former Confederate states and placed federal examiners in counties where black registration was below a prescribed level. For Johnson, it became the centerpiece of the Great Society, a sign that he could accomplish anything. Even Vietnam seemed, at that point, winnable.

The optimism would soon shatter. After the Civil Rights Act was enacted the previous year, Johnson had told civil rights leader Roy Wilkins, &ldquoOur troubles are just beginning. I guess you know that.&rdquo He&rsquod feared widespread violence by whites in the South. Though it never happened then, rioting broke out in the black Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts five days after Johnson signed the 1965 bill. When it was over, more than thirty people were dead and six hundred arrested. &ldquoJohnson was shocked by it,&rdquo says Dallek. &ldquoThat was one thing that pained him throughout the administration. He kept saying, &lsquoLook at everything I&rsquove done for black Americans. Why are they doing this to me?'&rdquo As riots spread to cities like Detroit and Newark, he wasn&rsquot the only one to sense a shift in the content and direction of civil rights. In 1964 only one third of all Americans thought that racial change was coming too fast. Two years later, 85 percent did.

Yet Johnson ultimately accomplished what he wanted. Morally, the nation is united on much higher ground than anyone ever could have imagined. Economically, integration has been a boon to all Americans one need only look at cities like Atlanta for proof. Politically, the impact of the Voting Rights Act cannot be overstated. By the end of 1966, only four states in the South had fewer than 50 percent of eligible blacks registered. By 1968 registration averaged 62 percent. Furthermore, in the sixties, only a few hundred blacks had been elected to public office now about nine thousand hold office, thanks in some part to the creation of safe minority districts that almost guaranteed a black candidate could win election.

Most interesting of all, at least as far as the White House is concerned, the electoral power of the South is more certain than ever. Before Johnson, no Southerner had been elected president since before the Civil War, yet three of the six men who succeeded him have Southern roots. &ldquoI don&rsquot think you could have had another Southern president without the Voting Rights Act,&rdquo says Katzenbach. &ldquoYou needed it to legitimize Southern politicians in the North.&rdquo The 2000 race proves the point: Front-runners George W. Bush and Al Gore each hail from former Confederate states. It&rsquos a situation that would no doubt make Johnson proud &mdash except for the fact that the candidate from Texas is a Republican.


Contents

One of the plans created during attempts to desegregate the schools of Little Rock was by school superintendent Virgil Blossom. The initial approach proposed substantial integration beginning quickly and extending to all grades within a matter of many years. [4] This original proposal was scrapped and replaced with one that more closely met a set of minimum standards worked out in attorney Richard B. McCulloch's brief. [5] This finalized plan would start in September 1957 and would integrate one high school: Little Rock Central. The second phase of the plan would take place in 1960 and would open up a few junior high schools to a few black children. The final stage would involve limited desegregation of the city's grade schools at an unspecified time, possibly as late as 1963. [5]

This plan was met with varied reactions from the NAACP branch of Little Rock. Militant members like the Bateses opposed the plan on the grounds that it was "vague, indefinite, slow-moving and indicative of an intent to stall further on public integration." [6] Despite this view, the majority accepted the plan most felt that Blossom and the school board should have the chance to prove themselves, that the plan was reasonable, and that the white community would accept it.

This view was short lived, however. Changes were made to the plan, the most detrimental being a new transfer system that would allow students to move out of the attendance zone to which they were assigned. [6] The altered Blossom Plan had gerrymandered school districts to guarantee a black majority at Horace Mann High and a white majority at Hall High. [6] This meant that, even though black students lived closer to Central, they would be placed in Horace Mann thus confirming the intention of the school board to limit the impact of desegregation. [6] The altered plan gave white students the choice of not attending Horace Mann, but did not give black students the option of attending Hall. This new Blossom Plan did not sit well with the NAACP and after failed negotiations with the school board, the NAACP filed a lawsuit on February 8, 1956.

This lawsuit, along with a number of other factors contributed to the Little Rock School Crisis of 1957.

Several segregationist councils threatened to hold protests at Central High and physically block the black students from entering the school. Governor Orval Faubus deployed the Arkansas National Guard to support the segregationists on September 4, 1957. The sight of a line of soldiers blocking out the students made national headlines and polarized the nation. Regarding the accompanying crowd, one of the nine students, Elizabeth Eckford, recalled:

They moved closer and closer. . Somebody started yelling. . I tried to see a friendly face somewhere in the crowd—someone who maybe could help. I looked into the face of an old woman and it seemed a kind face, but when I looked at her again, she spat on me. [7]

On September 9, the Little Rock School District issued a statement condemning the governor's deployment of soldiers to the school, and called for a citywide prayer service on September 12. Even President Dwight Eisenhower attempted to de-escalate the situation by summoning Faubus for a meeting, warning him not to defy the Supreme Court's ruling. [8]

Woodrow Wilson Mann, the mayor of Little Rock, asked President Eisenhower to send federal troops to enforce integration and protect the nine students. In September 24, Eisenhower invoked the Insurrection Act of 1807 to enable troops to perform domestic law enforcement. The president ordered the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army—without its black soldiers, who rejoined the division a month later—to Little Rock and federalized the entire 10,000-member Arkansas National Guard, taking it out of Faubus's control. [9]

By the end of September 1957, the nine were admitted to Little Rock Central High under the protection of the 101st Airborne Division (and later the Arkansas National Guard), but they were still subjected to a year of physical and verbal abuse by many of the white students. Melba Pattillo had acid thrown into her eyes [10] and also recalled in her book, Warriors Don't Cry, an incident in which a group of white girls trapped her in a stall in the girls' washroom and attempted to burn her by dropping pieces of flaming paper on her from above. Another one of the students, Minnijean Brown, was verbally confronted and abused. She said

I was one of the kids 'approved' by the school officials. We were told we would have to take a lot and were warned not to fight back if anything happened. One girl ran up to me and said, 'I'm so glad you're here. Won't you go to lunch with me today?' I never saw her again. [11]

Minnijean Brown was also taunted by members of a group of white male students in December 1957 in the school cafeteria during lunch. She dropped her lunch, a bowl of chili, onto the boys and was suspended for six days. Two months later, after more confrontation, Brown was suspended for the rest of the school year. She transferred to the New Lincoln School in New York City. [2] As depicted in the 1981 made-for-TV docudrama Crisis at Central High, and as mentioned by Melba Pattillo Beals in Warriors Don't Cry, white students were punished only when their offense was "both egregious and witnessed by an adult". [12] The drama was based on a book by Elizabeth Huckaby, a vice-principal during the crisis.

In the summer of 1958, as the school year was drawing to a close, Faubus decided to petition the decision by the Federal District Court in order to postpone the desegregation of public high schools in Little Rock. [13] In the Cooper v. Aaron case, the Little Rock School District, under the leadership of Orval Faubus, fought for a two and a half year delay on de-segregation, which would have meant that black students would only be permitted into public high schools in January 1961. [14] Faubus argued that if the schools remained integrated there would be an increase in violence. However, in August 1958, the Federal Courts ruled against the delay of de-segregation, which incited Faubus to call together an Extraordinary Session of the State Legislature on August 26 in order to enact his segregation bills. [15]

Claiming that Little Rock had to assert their rights and freedom against the federal decision, in September 1958, Faubus signed acts that enabled him and the Little Rock School District to close all public schools. [16] Thus, with this bill signed, on Monday September 15, Faubus ordered the closure of all four public high schools, preventing both black and white students from attending school. [17] Despite Faubus's decree, the city's population had the chance of refuting the bill since the school-closing law necessitated a referendum. The referendum, which would either condone or condemn Faubus's law, was to take place within thirty days. [17] A week before the referendum, which was scheduled to take place on September 27, Faubus addressed the citizens of Little Rock in an attempt to secure their votes. Faubus urged the population to vote against integration since he was planning on leasing the public school buildings to private schools, and, in doing so, would educate the white and black students separately. [18] Faubus was successful in his appeal and won the referendum. This year came to be known as the "Lost Year."

Faubus's victory led to a series of consequences that affected Little Rock society. Faubus and the school board's intention to open private schools was blocked by an injunction by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, [19] which caused some citizens of Little Rock to turn on the black community. The black community became a target for hate crimes since people blamed them for the closing of the schools. [20] Daisy Bates, head of the NAACP chapter in Little Rock, was a primary victim to these crimes, in addition to the black students enrolled at Little Rock Central High School and their families. [21]

The city's teachers were also placed in a difficult position. They were forced to swear loyalty to Faubus's bills. [17] Even though Faubus's idea of private schools never played out, the teachers were still bound by their contracts and expected to attend school every day. [19] [22]

In May 1959, after the firing of forty-four teachers and administrative staff from the four high schools, three segregationist board members were replaced with three moderate ones. The new board members reinstated the forty-four staff members to their positions. [23] The new board of directors then began an attempt to reopen the schools, much to Faubus's dismay. In order to avoid any further complications, the public high schools were scheduled to open earlier than usual, on August 12, 1959. [23]

Although the Lost Year had come to a close, the black students who returned to the high schools were not welcomed by the other students. Rather, the black students had a difficult time getting past mobs to enter the school, and, once inside, they were often subject to physical and emotional abuse. [24] The students were back at school and everything would eventually resume normal function, but the Lost Year would be a pretext for new hatred toward the black students in the public high school.

Faubus's opposition to desegregation was likely both politically and racially motivated. [25] Although Faubus had indicated that he would consider bringing Arkansas into compliance with the high court's decision in 1956, desegregation was opposed by his own southern Democratic Party, which dominated all Southern politics at the time. Faubus risked losing political support in the upcoming 1958 Democratic gubernatorial primary if he showed support for integration. [26]

Most histories of the crisis conclude that Faubus, facing pressure as he campaigned for a third term, decided to appease racist elements in the state by calling out the National Guard to prevent the black students from entering Central High. Former associate justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court James D. Johnson claimed to have hoaxed Governor Faubus into calling out the National Guard, supposedly to prevent a white mob from stopping the integration of Little Rock Central High School: "There wasn't any caravan. But we made Orval believe it. We said. 'They're lining up. They're coming in droves.' . The only weapon we had was to leave the impression that the sky was going to fall." He later claimed that Faubus asked him to raise a mob to justify his actions. [27]

Harry Ashmore, the editor of the Arkansas Gazette, won a 1958 Pulitzer Prize for his editorials on the crisis. Ashmore portrayed the fight over Central High as a crisis manufactured by Faubus in his interpretation, Faubus used the Arkansas National Guard to keep black children out of Central High School because he was frustrated by the success his political opponents were having in using segregationist rhetoric to stir white voters. [28]

Congressman Brooks Hays, who tried to mediate between the federal government and Faubus, was later defeated by a last minute write-in candidate, Dale Alford, a member of the Little Rock School Board who had the backing of Faubus's allies. [29] [ self-published source ] A few years later, despite the incident with the "Little Rock Nine", Faubus ran as a moderate segregationist against Dale Alford, who was challenging Faubus for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1962.

Little Rock Central High School still functions as part of the Little Rock School District, and is now a National Historic Site that houses a Civil Rights Museum, administered in partnership with the National Park Service, to commemorate the events of 1957. [30] The Daisy Bates House, home to Daisy Bates, then the president of the Arkansas NAACP and a focal point for the students, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2001 for its role in the episode. [31]

In 1958, Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén published "Little Rock", a bilingual composition in English and Spanish denouncing the racial segregation in the United States. [32]

Melba Pattillo Beals wrote a memoir titled Warriors Don't Cry, published in 1994.

Two made-for-television movies have depicted the events of the crisis: the 1981 CBS movie Crisis at Central High, and the 1993 Disney Channel movie The Ernest Green Story.

In 1996, seven of the Little Rock Nine appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show. They came face to face with a few of the white students who had tormented them as well as one student who had befriended them.

In February 1999, members created the Little Rock Nine Foundation [33] which established a scholarship program which had funded, by 2013, 60 university students. [34] In 2013 the foundation decided to exclusively fund students attending the Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas. [34]

President Bill Clinton honored the Little Rock Nine in November 1999 when he presented them each with a Congressional Gold Medal. The medal is the highest civilian award bestowed by Congress. [35] It is given to those who have provided outstanding service to the country. To receive the Congressional Gold Medal, recipients must be co-sponsored by two-thirds of both the House and Senate.

In 2007, the United States Mint made available a commemorative silver dollar to "recognize and pay tribute to the strength, the determination and the courage displayed by African-American high school students in the fall of 1957." The obverse depicts students accompanied by a soldier, with nine stars symbolizing the Little Rock Nine. The reverse depicts an image of Little Rock Central High School, c. 1957. Proceeds from the coin sales are to be used to improve the National Historic Site.

On December 9, 2008, the Little Rock Nine were invited to attend the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, the first African-American to be elected President of the United States. [36]

On February 9, 2010, Marquette University honored the group by presenting them with the Père Marquette Discovery Award, the university's highest honor, one that had previously been given to Mother Teresa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Karl Rahner, and the Apollo 11 astronauts.


5 times U.S. presidents deployed the military domestically

President Donald Trump called for military assistance in guarding the U.S.-Mexico border this week, arguing for the move’s necessity while his border wall is incomplete. Though sending the National Guard to the southern border comes with its own set of legal and financial challenges, it wouldn’t be the first time a U.S. president has deployed the military domestically.

Here are a few notable domestic uses of the military in American history:

Breaking up Bonus Army protests in 1932

In the midst of the Great Depression, thousands of World War I veterans gathered in Washington, D.C. to demand the government pay out the service certificate bonuses the veterans received after the war. The veterans, known as the Bonus Army, set up an Army-style camp in vacant lots and refused to leave even after a bill to pay out their bonuses was squashed in the Senate. A D.C. police effort to evict the veterans turned violent and two protestors were shot. After the failed police effort, President Herbert Hoover ordered the Army, led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, to clear out the camps. The Army shot tear gas and torched the camp as veterans fled.

Integration in Little Rock, AR in 1957

President Dwight Eisenhower used an executive order to send troops to Little Rock, AR in 1957 to enforce the integration of Central High School. Eisenhower sent troops to Little Rock after Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus deployed the Arkansas National Guard to uphold racial segregation and block nine African American students from entering the school.

Civil right march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965

After a civil rights activist was fatally shot by Alabama state troopers, civil rights leaders organized a march from Selma to Montgomery, led by Hosea Williams and John Lewis, now a Georgia congressman. After crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the marchers met a wall of state troopers, who attacked the marchers will clubs and tear gas in an incident known as Bloody Sunday. A second march took place without violence, but Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. turned the demonstrators around when troopers again blocked the bridge. After Alabama Governor George Wallace refused to issue the demonstrators protection for a third march, President Lyndon Johnson federalized the Alabama National Guard to protect the marchers as they walked towards the state capitol.

1970 U.S. postal strike

After declaring a national emergency, President Richard Nixon deployed the National Guard to New York City to distribute mail during the eight-day U.S. postal strike in 1970. At least 150,000 postal carriers joined the nationwide strike to demand higher wages and better working conditions. The effects of the strike greatly impacted the country as important government, finance, and industry documents, as well as Vietnam War draft notices, failed to be delivered.

U.S.-Mexico border in 2010

President Barack Obama deployed 1,200 National Guard troops to the Mexican border in 2010 to help combat drug trafficking and the potential for spillover violence. Obama’s deployment succeeded President George W. Bush’s Operation Jump Start, which deployed 6,000 guards to surveil the southern border in 2006.


What is the Insurrection Act and why has it been invoked before?

The last time a president invoked it for crowd control was in the 1992 LA riots.

Trump faces criticism for photo op in front of church

When President Donald Trump threatened Monday to use the active duty military to deal with nationwide violent protests over the last week, he was suggesting he might invoke a law more than 200 years old.

"If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them," he said in the White House Rose Garden.

To actually do so, he would need to employ what's known as the Insurrection Act of 1807.

What is the Insurrection Act?

Signed into law by President Thomas Jefferson in 1807, the Insurrection Act empowers the American president and commander in chief to deploy military troops within the U.S. in particular circumstances, if they believe it is necessary to quell an "insurrection" that threatens a state or its residents.

It's essentially a legal key that unlocks the door to use federal military forces -- whether through federalizing the National Guard or calling in "Title X forces" to settle civil unrest.

The exception to the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which prohibits active-duty troops from being deployed to U.S. states for routine use as police forces, is an important and expansive power granted to the president.

When has it been invoked?

The Insurrection Act has rarely been invoked in the 213 years it's been on the books -- but in modern times, presidents have typically assumed the power to deal with the American agony of racial conflict, even relying on the provision to uphold federal civil rights in the Deep South.

In 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower called on the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division to safely escort nine black students into Little Rock Central High School after the Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus, using the Arkansas National Guard under the guise of maintaining peace, tried to prevent the students from entering the school.

President John F. Kennedy invoked the Insurrection Act in 1962 and 1963 to send federal troops to Mississippi and Alabama to enforce civil rights laws. In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson sent the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions to Detroit when deadly riots broke out between police and residents and again invoked the law in 1968 in response to protests sparked by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

And in 1992, President George H.W. Bush responded to a request from Gov. Pete Wilson of California to help quell rioting in Los Angeles after the acquittal of the four LAPD officers who brutally beat Rodney King.

The act was revised after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to expand presidential power and though contemplated for use in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Bush administration used other authorities to send thousands of active duty troops to New Orleans.

How can it be invoked?

The Insurrection Act can be invoked at a state's request. A state legislature or governor could request assistance from the president to "to suppress [an] Insurrection."

Two other Insurrection Act provisions allow a president to invoke it regardless of a state's wishes.

One provision permits it to be invoked if the president deems it necessary "to suppress an insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination or conspiracy."

A third option -- the most generalized provision -- says the president can use the armed forces when there is an interference with federal or state law.

But first, a proclamation to disperse:

Prior to invoking the Insurrection Act, the president and the attorney general must first issue a "proclamation to disperse."

If the situation is not cleared, the president may then issue an executive order to send in troops, according to a 2006 report by the Congressional Research Service.

Has Trump invoked it?

The White House has not issued a proclamation text, and President Trump didn't use the words "Insurrection Act" in his Monday night statement.

But at least one Republican has already recommended it: Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a staunch conservative, advocated on Twitter that Trump employ the 101st Airborne Division.

The most notable time 101st Airborne Division was in Cotton's home state was in 1957 when Eisenhower used the Insurrection Act to force desegregation and safely escort nine black students into Little Rock Central High School.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, was quick to dispute Trump's comments, rejecting the idea that the government can send troops to his jurisdiction.

"I reject the notion that the federal government can send troops into the state of Illinois," Pritzker told CNN. "He wants to change the subject from his failure over coronavirus, a miserable failure, and now see a moment when there's unrest because of the injustice that was done to George Floyd that he now wants to create another topic and something where he can be the law and order president."

An ABC analysis:

John Cohen, former Acting Undersecretary for Intelligence at the Department of Homeland Security, who is now an ABC News contributor, noted the U.S. military, as formidable as it is, isn't trained specifically to deal with civil unrest in the U.S.

"Placing U.S. military personnel in the position of potentially using deadly force against other U.S. citizens is not something that should be done in a cavalier manner," Cohen said.

"The experience of its deployment during the Los Angeles riots faced many logistical communication and operational challenges," added Cohen, also a former police officer who worked in Los Angeles county. "It wasn't seen as a successful operation by many."

Read the original text:

The original text of the act, which has been amended several times since it was first passed on March 3, 1807, reads as follows:

"An Act authorizing the employment of the land and naval forces of the United States, in cases of insurrections. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That in all cases of insurrection, or obstruction to the laws, either of the United States, or of any individual state or territory, where it is lawful for the President of the United States to call forth the militia for the purpose of suppressing such insurrection, or of causing the laws to be duly executed, it shall be lawful for him to employ, for the same purposes, such part of the land or naval force of the United States, as shall be judged necessary, having first observed all the pre-requisites of the law in that respect."