Browse Exhibits (4 total)
The personal and political relationship between President Eisenhower and Governor Shivers demonstrates the calculated decisions both made during the crisis at Mansfield High School. Shivers’ support for Eisenhower in the 1952 and 1956 presidential elections ensured that an important relationship would develop between two unlikely allies. Eisenhower’s position in favor of states’ rights, along with favoring Texas’ claim to the tidelands, convinced Shivers to support a Republican over the Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson. Eisenhower went on to carry Texas in both elections and shared his gratitude with Shivers through frequent letter exchanges, meetings, and golfing trips.
The integration showdown at Mansfield High School prompted Shivers to send in Texas Rangers to maintain peace and avoid the integration of African-American students in defiance of court orders. The Eisenhower administration steered clear of any response that would have upheld court orders on integration in Mansfield. Not only did Eisenhower view Shivers’ actions as consistent with the powers of the Governor, but he also believed Shivers was able to prevent any acts of violence that would follow integration. Eisenhower would respond differently in the crisis at Little Rock, where he federalized the Arkansas National Guard and ensured the integration of Central High School. Eisenhower’s relationship with Shivers may have contributed to his lack of response in Mansfield and ensured a continued personal and political alliance.
The integration of public schools occurred across the South after the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Efforts to desegregate Mansfield High School in 1956 failed. Other towns , using either federal or state resources to enforce hte Supreme Court's decision, succeeded in integrating their public schools.
The effects of Jim Crow were evident all over Mansfield, Texas, from Farr Best Movie Theater where African Americans were only allowed access to the small balcony, to the colored school, which was for all black students up until ninth grade. The high school in Mansfield was for whites only; black students were bussed to I.M. Terrell in Fort Worth. These Jim Crow laws and customs directed the daily lives of the citizens of Mansfield. Although one Mansfield resident, Floyd Moody, remembers spending the weekends playing with some of the white Mansfield students, that all changed for him after August 1956, when he and three other students, with the help of T.M. Moody, a local black leader, and L. Clifford Davis, an attorney for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), tried to desegregate Mansfield High School.
On August 17, 1956, a mandate of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in the case of Jackson v. Rawdon stated in part “Nathaniel Jackson, Charles Moody, and Floyd Stevenson Moody, and all other negro minors of the same class as the named minor plaintiffs, have the right to admission to, and to attend the Mansfield High School on the same basis as members of the white race, and that the refusal of the defendants to admit plaintiffs thereto on account of color or race is unlawful.” Floyd S. Moody, one student named in the case, recalled that thirteen days later on August 30, 1956, the three named students along with L. Clifford Davis, T.M. Moody, and John Lawson went to register at Mansfield High School where Superintendent R.L. Huffman told them, "That would never happen." The following day, August 31, 1956, residents of Mansfield and surrounding areas gathered at the high school, joined by Texas Rangers, sent by Governor Allan Shivers to “maintain law and order.” Oral histories, area newspapers, NAACP regional archives, and documents in the Mansfield Historical Society and Mansfield Library convey the anxieties of the town, the curiosity of outsiders, the anger of radical segregationists, and the fears of local African Americans.