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Analyze the following domestic policies of Presidents Truman and Eisenhower

external image Truman_initiating_Korean_involvement.jpg
external image Eisenhower_in_the_Oval_Office.jpg
Topics on the Page
Harry S. Truman
Key Events and Speeches
  • Truman's Order to Integrate the Military
Truman's Fair Deal
the Taft-Hartley Act (1947)

Dwight D. Eisenhower
Key Programs
  • Interstate Highway System
  • Eisenhower's response to the Soviet launching of Sputnik
  • Farewell Address
Eisenhower's civil rights record
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1957
  • The Little Rock Nine

Map_of_USA_MA.svg.pngFor more, see AP United States History: The 1950s

WhiteHouseSouthFacade.JPGFocus Question: What were the domestic policies of Presidents Truman and Eisenhower?

Harry S. Truman, 1945
Harry S. Truman, 1945

Key Events and Speeches

Click here for the Truman Presidential Library

Harry S. Truman: Domestic Affairs

Here is a list of the Executive Orders President Truman signed, starting in 1945.

Rotating_globe-small.gifTruman's Order to Integrate the Military
President's Civil Rights Message on the Armed Forces, May 11, 1945.

President Truman, noticing the discrimination in the armed forces, decided to right that wrong in 1947 with an executive order that effectively desegregated the armed forces. This order which preceded the Civil Rights movement by more than a decade was the first step to abolishing segregation in American political and social institutions. This also made the Korean War (1950-1953) the first war were black and white soldiers fought in integrated units.

Click here to see a transcript of the executive order.

For background on the integration of the military, see Desegregation of the Armed Forces: Chronologyfrom the Truman Presidential Library.

primary_sources.PNGTruman's speech announcing the dropping of the the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, August 6th, 1945.

President Truman’s Fair Deal

-Expanded Social Security
-Developed a full-employment program
-Issued Executive Order 9980: Fair Employment Practices within the Federal Establishment
-Issued public housing and slum clearance legislation

Following in the footsteps FDR had taken when developing his New Deal Policies, Truman felt it was the government's job to intervene and fix things after WWII. His response was the Fair Deal, a 21-point program of proposed reforms.
  • Domestic program that built off of FDR's “New Deal” plan.
  • Harry Truman believed that the Federal government should guarantee certain rights to people, like economic opportunity and social stability.
  • After WW2, Truman wanted to transition the country into a peacetime economy.
    • With millions of soldiers returning home from war looking for jobs and homes there was a lot of unrest.
    • The GI Bill was passed before the end of war, which helped returning soldiers buy houses with guaranteed loans for home-buying and financial aid for university education and industrial training.
      • Labor unrest became a problem after the war, as the production ceased and many found themselves without jobs.
      • In 1946, 4.6 MILLION people went on strike, More than ever before in U.S. history, demanding labor changes.
  • While dealing with critical economic and social issues, Truman had a very broad approach, which brought on criticism from many, like the Republicans.
  • he presented Congress with a 21-point program, Less than a week after the war ended which provided:
    • protection against unfair employment practices
    • a higher minimum wage
    • greater unemployment reimbursement
    • housing aid.

  • However, this scattershot approach often left Truman's priorities unclear.

  • Conservative legislators, who wanted to reduce the role of government, found Truman’s ideas to be a bad idea.
As shown in the political cartoon to the left, Truman was criticized for overreaching his presidential authority by his conservative Congress.

  • Truman’s Fair Deal economic and social reform program helped him win the 1948 election, with the vote of farmers, workers, African Americans, over the dominating Republican party, in one of the biggest upset of American politics.

  • The effects of Truman’s Fair Deal plan were mixed. Some improvements were made, like an increase in the minimum wage. However, Truman’s preoccupation with Cold War affairs held back his effectiveness.

primary_sources.PNGRead a transcript of Truman's Fair Deal speech, January 5, 1949

Click here to read a Washington Post article about the Fair Deal from 1949.

The Taft-Hartley Act (1947)

  • Also called the Labor Management Relations Act

Truman vetoed the Taft-Hartley Act, but was overridden

primary_sources.PNGTaft-Hartley Act
  • Sponsored by U.S. Senator Robert A. Taft and Representative Fred A. Hartley.
  • Amendment to The National Labor Relations Act
  • Passed on June 23, 1947, after much resistance from labor leaders and a veto from President Truman who denounced it as a "slave-labor bill"
  • The Act provided the following:
    • Declares all closed shops, where only union members can be hired, illegal.
    • Allows the president to appoint a board of investigators to explore union disputes when he believes a strike would endanger national security or health, and obtain an 80-day injunction to stop the continuation of a strike.
    • Allows union shops only after a majority of workers vote for them.
    • Prohibits unions from contributing to political campaigns.
    • Forbids jurisdictional strikes and secondary boycotts.
    • Limited the power of labor unions and required union leaders to affirm they were not supporters of the Communist Party, this action was upheld by the Supreme Court in May, 1950.
  • Even though many people tried to repeal the act, it stayed in effect until 1959.
  • The Taft-Hartley Act was a response to the mounting strikes occurring during the post-World War II labor surge. With millions of soldiers returning to the work force strikes became more common and it was a problem that Congress decided to address.

WhiteHouseSouthFacade.JPGPresident Eisenhower's Key Programs

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Official Presidential Portrait
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Official Presidential Portrait

Click here for the Eisenhower Presidential Library

Dwight Eisenhower: Domestic Affairs

-Expanded Social Security.

-Launched largest U.S. public works projects in history, the Federal Highway Act of 1956.

-Established a permanent wartime economy in the midst of the Cold War.

Interstate Highways System

Annual vehicle miles traveled on the U.S. Interstate Highway System, 1957-2008
Annual vehicle miles traveled on the U.S. Interstate Highway System, 1957-2008

Ike's Interstates at 50, National Archives, 2006

Eisenhower's Farewell Address

Multimedia.pngEisenhower's Farewell Address where he warns against the dangers of the military-industrial complex. Video segment from YouTube.

Eisenhower makes the point that this is the first time that the United States has a fully established weapons industry and this poses a threat to the liberty of the country. He also said the greatest danger that faces the nation is the threat to the national balance. He feels that if the nation gets thrown out of balance in all facets of society our nation will not endure.

primary_sources.PNGText of the speech from the National Archives.

Eisenhower’s response to the Soviet’s launching of Sputnik

  • Sputnik - first artificial satellite to be put into orbit, on October 4, 1957.sputnik2.jpg
  • At the height of the Cold War, the launching of Sputnik caught the West totally by surprise.sputnik3.jpg
  • This terrified Eisenhower, and a lot of the country, who were filled with Cold War uncertainties, that the U.S. was no longer number one in advanced technology.
    • A week later the U.S. Office of Education published a study confirming that the Soviet Union outranked the United States in every aspect of science and technology.
  • The only hope, in Eisenhower’s and many U.S. citizen’s minds, was to reinvigorate American education, to place more emphasis on science, to add more discipline, and to use Sputnik as a threat of thermonuclear war to get kids to focus more.
    • Sputnik, not only reformed U.S. education but lead to the Space Race against the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The United States launched Explorer I, Courier 1B, and Project SCORE in response to Soviet advances in the space race
  • Created NASA in 1958; its goal was to compete with the Soviet Union and its space program.
    • Read Sputnik's influence on America from NOVA PBS.
      • Watch a CBS news story from October 6th, 1957.
        • Click to read History.com's overview of the Sputnik launch.
Multimedia.pngClick here for a documentary on what became known as the "Sputnik Moment."

As the cartoon to the right show, Sputnik was considered a turning point, or a "waking up" of US complacency towards the Soviet Union.

primary_sources.PNGNational Defense Education Act was signed September 2, 1958 and was in response to the Soviets launching of the satellite Sputnik. This funded education in the United States with a focus on math, science, and foreign language which the United States was falling behind the Soviet Union in. It provided National Defense scholarships for students to pursue higher education in fields that were essential for national defense.

timeline2_rus.svg.pngClick to see a timeline of the Cold War.

Click for a Crash Course video on the Cold War, including areas regarding US domestic policy.

rotating gif.gifFor more about the US policies during the Cold War, see US History II 19.

Eisenhower’s Civil Rights Record

  • Eisenhower, and his administration, worked quietly during the 1950’s on civil rights improvements. See An Inside Look at Eisenhower's Civil Rights Record
    • During his first 3 years in office (1953-1955) he presented no civil rights legislation to Congress.
    • Eisenhower believed that racial segregation could not easily be changed, even by U.S. Government legislation.
    • In 1958, he asked Congress to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. While it would fail to pass, it became a lightning rod for feminism in the decades to follow and Eisenhower was the first president to support it.
  • He was the first president to appoint an African American to an executive position on the White House staff, named Frederic Morrow.

The Civil Rights Act of 1957

  • He introduced the Civil Rights Act of 1957, aimed to guarantee that all African Americans could exercise their right to vote.
    • It also was aimed toward a new division within the federal Justice Department to monitor civil rights abuses and a joint report to be done by representatives of both major political parties on the issue of race relations.
    • His effort towards civil rights helped him gain support among black voters when he successfully ran for reelection to the presidency.

Female_Rose.png Eisenhower on women's rights and their role in government.


The Little Rock Nine

The Little Rock Nine
In an 1957 incident known as the "Little Rock Nine," the Governor of Arkansas refused to integrate their public schools. President Eisenhower sent in a division of the military to ensure the safety of the nine black students who were to attend an all-white school. This action was done to uphold the ruling of the Brown v Topeka Board of Education Supreme Court Case.

Multimedia.pngAddress On the Situation in Little Rock was President Eisenhower's speech regarding the decision to send the 101st Airborne to enforce federal law dictated in the Supreme Court Case of Brown v. Topeka Board of Education.

Video by History.com on the Little Rock Nine.

As the images to the right show:
  • The Little Rock Nine affair was highly controversial. Some believed that the South needed to take its time with adjusting to new racial policies.
    • At the same time, Civil Rights activists in the US lauded the Supreme Court decision, comparing it here to breaking the chain of segregation.

Multimedia.pngLittle Rock Nine 50 years later

Silver Dollar Commemorating the Little Rock Nine (issued but uncirculated, 2008)
external image LittleRockUncObv.jpg

For more information on both President Truman and President Eisenhower's domestic policies and background information, please visit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/.

external image Test_hq3x.pngSample Test Question (2007)
Which of the following was an effect of the Taft-Hartley Act (1947) on labor unions?
a) It prohibited labor unions from being segregated.
b) It restricted the organizing activities of labor unions.
c) It allowed labor unions to use dues for political activity.
d) It guaranteed health benefits for members of labor unions.

Works Cited:

  1. http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9070904/Taft-Hartley-Act
  2. http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/sputnik/
  3. http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/de34.html
  4. http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761564651/New_Deal.html#p7
  5. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAhartley.htm
  6. http://www.eisenhower.utexas.edu/dl/LittleRock/littlerockdocuments.html