Interview with Herbert Brownell, Jr.
QUESTION 31
INTERVIEWER:

LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT THE 1957 CIVIL RIGHTS UH, BILL. UM, COULD YOU, COULD YOU TALK ABOUT IT IN TERMS OF LINKING IT TO THE PRESIDENT'S RESPONSE TO BROWN AND WHAT YOU FELT IT WAS AS AN ACHIEVEMENT.

Herbert Brownell, Jr.:

One of the uh, uh, one of the uh, you might say the fallout from the Brown decision was the gradual realization on the part of President Eisenhower and those around him of the lack of federal power to intervene in cases such as Little Rock. Um, He uh, the only instrument that the federal government had was a two man uh, civil rights unit in the department of justice with an appropriation which amounted to two salaries. There was no instrument under which the federal government could effectively act. Therefore at his direction, we developed uh, the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and when it became law it was the first Civil Rights Act of Congress since the reconstruction days following the uh Civil War. It provided that the uh, that there should be a new Civil Rights division in the Department of Justice, headed by an Assistant Attorney General and appropriate, an appropriation large enough to really command attention on the part of uh, the public generally. It provided for the establishment of a Civil Rights Commission which would recommend additional measures from time to time for the enforcement of the Brown decision and enforcement of all other civil rights. It provided basically, for uh voting rights uh blacks throughout the country. And it contained another provision which was later stricken out by the Senate, uh that any time there was a violation of civil rights, that the Attorney General should have the authority to move in and represent the Federal Government in curing that violation. I say that was stricken out by the Senate, but the rest of the bill became law and it was an important uh, development. Because it, for the first time since the Civil War since the Plessy case anyway, interpreting the Civil War legislation, the federal government had a direct role which uh was supported by Congress in uh the Civil Rights picture.