Civil Rights

September 11, 1957 – Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me” Sends Many

Sam Cooke: Sharply-dressed and on his way to the top

 

On September 11, 1957, the latest buzz was all about a new song getting plenty of airplay on the radio.  “You Send Me“, the B side of a new single released by newcomer to the pop scene, Sam Cooke, was catching everyone’s attention (unlike Side A, a reworking of George Gershwin’s “Summertime”).

At the time, Cooke was a member of the gospel quartet, the Soul Stirrers.  As one of eight children of a Baptist minister, Cooke began his career singing church songs with his brothers and sisters in a group they called The Singing Children.  He joined the Soul Stirrers in 1950 at age 19.  In 1957, crossing over to pop or R & B alienated a gospel vocalist’s fan base.  The success of “You Send Me” precipitated Sam’s leaving the Soul Stirrers and heading out on his own.

“You Send Me” went to the top of Billboard’s pop and R&B charts.  It established Cooke as a mainstream R&B singer and achieved legendary status as part of the foundation of soul music, a genre which Sam helped create.  Cooke has been called the King of Soul for his talent and influence on other vocalists, including Aretha Franklin, Bobby Womack, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gaye.  He had 29 Top 40 pop hits in the United States between 1957 and his death in 1964, and even more of his singles hit the Top 40 R&B charts.  Cooke later started his own recording label, SAR Records, a publishing imprint, and a management firm.  He took an active role in the civil rights movement.

Sadly, the man who in September 1957 had everyone joining in on “whooooa—–oh—oh-oh-oh-oh” was shot and killed by a hotel clerk in Los Angeles, California in December of 1964.  The controversial ending to a stellar career – which included the hits “Chain Gang”, “Wonderful World”, “Bring it on Home to Me”, “Cupid”, “Twisting the Night Away”, “Another Saturday Night”, and “A Change is Gonna Come” – was ruled a justifiable homicide.

November 5, 1957 – Election Day in Little Rock, Arkansas

Little Rock Mayor Woodrow Mann talks with Col. William Kuhn, commander of the 101st Airborne Division. Photo: US Army

Little Rock Mayor Woodrow Mann talks with Col. William Kuhn, commander of the 101st Airborne Division. Photo: US Army

On November 5, 1957, the first Tuesday in November, voters in integration battlefield Little Rock, Arkansas went to the polls to elect a new mayor.  The incumbent, Democrat Woodrow Wilson Mann, had decided not to run for a second term.  Mann’s election campaign in 1955 to put Little Rock’s first Republican mayor, Pratt C. Remmel, out of office, had been blessed by Arkansas’ Governor Orval Faubus, Senator James Fulbright, and Representatives Brooks Hays and Wilbur Mills, all Democrats.  But by the late fall of 1957, Mann knew he had fallen from grace with his state party machine.

The Little Rock school district had been ordered to integrate, starting with the 1957 school year, in compliance with the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education.  Nine African-American students had enrolled in Little Rock Central High and attempted to attend the first day of classes in September.  Gov. Faubus had responded by activating the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the teenagers from entering the school.  Even though he never supported classroom integration, Mann wrote, in one of a series of articles later published by the New York Herald Tribune in 1958, he felt bound to uphold the law in the Supreme Court’s ruling against desegregation.  He contradicted Faubus’ interpretation of the events surrounding the crisis, asserting that the Guard troops weren’t necessary to prevent violence.  A small group of organized agitators, and weak-kneed Faubus’ political pandering were to blame.  “Left to ourselves we could easily complied with the law,” he asserted.

So on a fateful day in September, Mayor Mann telegraphed President Dwight Eisenhower.  “I am pleading to you as president of the United States to provide the necessary troops within several hours”, he wrote, adding that an armed mob was growing by the minute.  Eisenhower deployed the Army’s 101st Airborne and the Little Rock Nine, as the students came to be known, entered Central High.  Roy Reed, author of a biography of Orval Faubus and reporter for the Arkansas Gazette at the time, said Mayor Mann “did what needed to be done and stood up”, adding, “It almost certainly cost him any future that he had in politics in Arkansas.”  Gov. Faubus subsequently expressed his regret over ever having supported Woodrow Mann for mayor.

With the political writing on the wall, and crosses burning on his front lawn, Mann decided not to run for reelection.  Democrat and construction company owner Werner C. Knoop was voted into office on November 5th, along with a slate of new school board members, one of which ran on a militantly anti-integration platform.  Mann, an insurance broker who as mayor had taken small but significant steps toward racial equality in Little Rock city government, relocated to Houston, where he stood a better chance of success in business.  He remained in Houston, where he retired in 1990, and passed away in 2002 at the age of 85.

October 20, 1957 – NYC Mayor Robert Wagner’s Coney Island Campaign Stop

The Mayoral Debate: Catsup or Mustard? Photo: Eddie Hausner, The New York Times Photo Archives, available at the New York Times store

On October 20, 1957, incumbent New York City mayoral candidate Robert F. Wagner, Jr. stopped for a classic Coney Island treat – a All-American hot dog.  On his way to a second-term landslide victory, Democrat Wagner’s alignment with Carmine DeSapio’s Tammany Hall machine during his first election in 1953 instigated a intra-party feud between DeSapio and Presidential Widow Eleanor Roosevelt, whose husband Franklin had previously stripped the long-standing political society from federal patronage.  Tammany Hall’s 140-year influence over the city had begun to wane in the 1930’s, with the election of Republican Mayor Fiorello La Guardia on a Fusion ticket.  The 1953 DeSapio-Wagner alliance resulted in a brief resurgence of machine politics in the 1950’s.

Mayor Wagner, a Yale graduate and Scroll and Key member, was born in Manhattan in 1910, the son of U. S. Senator Robert Ferdinand Wagner, Sr.  During his tenure in Gotham he was instrumental in building public housing and schools, creating the City University of New York system, establishing the right of collective bargaining for city employees, and barring housing discrimination based on race, creed or color.  He is said to be the first mayor to pro-actively hire a significant number of people of color into city government positions.  The city’s performing arts jewel, the Lincoln Center, was developed while Wagner was in office.  The Public Theater’s New York Shakespeare Festival (now known as Shakespeare in the Park) also took shape during his tenure.  His administration’s inaction led to the out-of-town migration of the Giants and Dodgers baseball teams, although a subsequent commission he formed led to the birth of the New York Mets.

Wagner broke with DeSapio and Tammany Hall during his third-term mayoral campaign in 1961.  His victory set a milestone in New York City, and local machine politics thereafter entered a decline.

October 14, 1957 – Happy Birthday, Mr. President!

President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Photo: White House, Pubic Domain

On October 14, 1957, United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower celebrated his 67th birthday with his loving wife, Mamie, by his side.  Possibly their son John and daughter-in-law Barbara, and grandchildren David, Barbara, Susan, and Mary were able to join in the festivities.  Dwight and Mamie’s first son, Doud (Mamie’s maiden name), had died of scarlet fever in 1921 at age 3.

Born David Dwight Eisenhower in 1890 in Denison, Texas, President Eisenhower was the third of seven sons for David  and Ida Eisenhower.  Finances were always tight for David, a college-educated engineer, and Ida, a homemaker and deeply religious woman.   The Eisenhowers moved to Abilene, Kansas early in the future President’s life and he worked for two years after graduating from Abilene High to help pay for his brother Edgar’s college education.  When it came time for Dwight, as he was called, to attend college, he chose West Point, and changed his name to “Dwight David” when he entered the prestigious Army academy in the fall of 1911.  Eisenhower enjoyed sports and was a good athlete.  While he didn’t make the academy baseball team (“one of the greatest disappointments of my life, maybe my greatest”), he played football and was a starting running back and linebacker from his sophomore year onward.  Eisenhower graduated in 1915 and served in a wide variety of roles and theaters during his Army career.

Eisenhower trained early in tank warfare, served in the Panama Canal Zone, marked time during the 1920’s and early ’30s, then served in the Philipines before assignment to high commands during World War II.  He was ultimately named Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe, planning and carrying out Operation Overlord, the D-Day invasion of Normandy.  His ability to work with difficult personalities and maintain strong relationships gained him respect and greater responsibility.  Eisenhower found a way to stay on positive and constructive terms with such military and political luminaries as Gen. George Patton, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, French Gen. Charles de Gaulle, Soviet Marshall Georgy Zhukov and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin.

In 1948, after the conclusion of the war and the occupation of Europe, Eisenhower revealed the depth of his commitment to God, calling himself  “one of the most deeply religious men I know”, although he remained unattached to any “sect or organization”.

Prior to his election in 1952, President Eisenhower served briefly as the President of New York’s Columbia University, and as Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  He and his 1952 running mate, Richard M. Nixon, beat Democrats Adlai Stevenson and John Sparkman to gain the White House in a landslide victory.  His philosophy was one of “dynamic conservatism”.  He retained New Deal programs, created the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, championed the creation of the Interstate Highway System, crafted the Eisenhower Doctrine after the Suez Crisis in 1956, and spearheaded the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960, declaring racial discrimination a national security issue.

President Eisenhower’s health became a troubling issue while in office.  He was hospitalized for several weeks in 1955 following a heart attack, and suffered from Crohn’s disease, which required more surgery and hospitalization in 1956 to relieve a bowel obstruction.  Fortunately, he recovered his health and continued to ably lead the country he loved.

Some quotes from this great American:

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.”

“Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels – men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine.  As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.”

“History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.”

“Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in the blood of his followers and the sacrifices of his friends.”

“I can think of nothing more boring for the American people than to have to sit in their living rooms for a whole half hour looking at my face on their television screens.”

“I have only one yardstick by which I test every major problem – and that yardstick is: Is it good for America?”

September 23, 1957 – Time Magazine Profiles Arkansas Governor Oral Faubus

Time Faubus CoverThe September 23, 1957 issue of Time magazine featured controversial Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus on its cover. An accompanying in-depth article titled “What Orval Hath Wrought” profiled Faubus and the part his actions played in the current Little Rock school integration crisis. Time writers minced no words in indicting Faubus for self-aggrandizing behavior at the expense of the citizens, students, and local government of the town of Little Rock – and beyond.

From the outset, Faubus maintained that integrating African-American students into Little Rock Central High School in the fall of 1957 would result in violence, even “bloodshed.” He adamantly stated that he was not anti-integration, but that the timing was too soon, that the (white) people of Arkansas would not accept integration and would resort to criminal behavior to prevent it. His assessment,  Time reported, was patently untrue. Other integration efforts in Arkansas had already been successfully achieved. Little Rock Mayor Woodrow Wilson Mann had helped carefully craft an integration plan for the start of the school year which included measures to preserve safety and order. “There was no indication of unrest whatever,” Mann was quoted. “We had no reason to believe there would be violence.” The community of Little Rock, including the parents of the nine African-American teens selected to attend Central High, had faith in Mayor Mann’s preparations. Then, on September 4th, the first day of school, Orval called in the Arkansas National Guard to block school access (and protect his gubernatorial mansion). His actions aggravated local tensions, which were relieved only by the intervention of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, when he deployed the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army to Little Rock on September 24th. The Little Rock Nine, the moniker by which the African-American students became known, began attending classes and Faubus’ disguised electioneering efforts began to backfire on him.

The effects of Faubus’ actions weren’t limited to Little Rock. Southern school districts in North Little Rock and Ozark, Arkansas, Knoxville, Tennessee, and Charlotte, North Carolina experienced trouble as a direct result. African-American students who had been integrated into white schools were now barred from schools, jeered, pushed and shoved, hit with clothes hangars and books. A white motorist attempted to run down two children on their way home from school. The Knoxville News-Sentinel stated, “This official act has lent an air of respectability and social approval to mob action.”

Faubus, at the time, was preparing his bid for an unprecedented third term as governor. His popularity was waning and he had little political or personal ammunition with which to persuade Arkansasans to approve his return. How to increase his cache as a candidate? Manufacture an incipient crisis and style himself as a segregationist savior-hero. Get himself in the headlines.

Headlines Faubus got – and the cover of a respected national news magazine. For Orval, the story was not one of triumph, however, but tragedy.

Time Magazine, Sept. 23, 1957. Graphic: R.M. Chapin, Jr.

Time Magazine, Sept. 23, 1957. Graphic: R.M. Chapin, Jr.