208. Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation Between the Secretary of State and the Attorney General (Brownell), Washington, September 24, 1957, 2:15 p.m.1

The AG said the President had authorized the use of troops.2 The thing came to a boil and he acted. The kids would go back to school tomorrow and this time there would be plenty of protection. Br. said it was too bad it had to happen. The Sec. said he thought the Pres. would be in a stronger position if he talked more broadly than he apparently has done in recent days. Br. said the Pres. was coming to Washington this afternoon, arriving around 5:30, and [Page 613]would speak on TV around nine o’clock this evening.3 The Sec. said he assumed that the Pres. had been talking with Mr. Brownell.

The Sec. said this situation was ruining our foreign policy. The effect of this in Asia and Africa will be worse for us than Hungary was for the Russians. He did not know if saying this helps the situation. He said there should be an awareness of the effect of all this. Br. said he had gone to Newport and had taken with him the USIA report which mentioned the use Nasser and Khrushchev were making of it.4 The Pres. was very alert to this aspect. There has been considerable in the papers since then. Br. said this was the only thing he had done officially in this line. Br. said there would be continued opposition from the Southern Governors. He said the Sec’s part of the problem would not be solved by this although firm action would certainly help a lot. They discussed the seriousness of situation at some length. Brownell asked if the Sec. would look at the Pres’s draft speech for tonight and the Sec. said he was not sure how much help he would be on this, although he would be glad to do it if it would help, Br. said Sec. might want to have another rundown with USIA people.5

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, General Telephone Conversations. Prepared in the Office of the Secretary of State.
  2. The President announced on September 23 that he would use whatever force was necessary to quell the disturbances at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, where violent opposition arose over court orders to integrate the school. (Statement by the President; Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1957, p. 689)
  3. For text of the President’s radio and television address to the American people on the situation in Little Rock, see ibid., pp. 689–694.
  4. Not found in USIA or Department of State files.
  5. At a staff meeting with the Secretary of State on September 25, Assistant Secretary of State Berding reported that USIA was treating the Little Rock incident as straight news and attempting to show progress already made in integration. (Department of State, Secretary’s Staff Meetings: Lot 63 D 75, J–D 57) In an internal memorandum, September 25, to members of IBS, IPS, and IMS, Edward J. Joyce, IOP, recommended that USIA treatment of the Little Rock situation should stress that the unruly elements in Little Rock were not typical of the community; he also advised that an attempt be made to use pictures of interracial activities to offset photographs and films of the mob scenes at Little Rock, (ibid., USIA/IOP/G Files: Civil Rights and Race Relations)