Picture 7
(Image from eisenhower.archives.gov)

SCoR at SSCA in LIttle Rock, 2011

For the third year, the Southern Colloquium on Rhetoric presented a panel at the annual conference of the Southern Communication Association. This year’s invitation came from Southern’s Public Address Division and program planner Richard Leeman. Capitalizing on the conference location, Little Rock, AR, the panel focused on the most prominent speeches surrounding the controversy over the integration of public schools in Little Rock in 1957.

In September, 1957, the school board of Little Rock, Arkansas stood ready to implement its plan, created in response to the 1954 decision of the US Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, KS, to integrate the Little Rock public schools. Gov. Orval Faubus called out the Arkansas National Guard to prevent integration, creating a constitutional crisis. Would a state be allowed, on an argument from state’s rights, to defy a ruling of the US Supreme Court? President Dwight Eisenhower settled the question by sending in federal troops and federalizing the Arkansas National Guard to enforce the decision of the Court.

Two statements by Gov Faubus, his
Sept 2, 1957 speech laying out his position on Federal integration mandates and his Sept 26, 1957 speech reponding to Eisenhower’s enforcement of the federal mandate (a 6.1 MB pdf file; allow some time for download), and the speech delivered on national television by Dwight Eisenhower provide a fascinating case study in the rhetorical clash among state’s rights, federal rights, and civil rights in the United States in the 1950s. For those who would like to do some reading on the historical, political, and social contexts for the 1957 showdown, the 50th anniv issue of The Arkansas Historical Quarterly 2007, 66 (2) has several articles about this occasion. Special thanks to Lisa Corrigan for securing the Faubus texts.

After brief presentations from the five panelists, all in attendance were invited to participate in a lively discussion analyzing these important speeches.

Barbara Biesecker, University of Georgia, chaired this year’s panel. Panelists were: Vanessa Beasley, Vanderbilt University; Lisa Corrigan, University of Arkansas; James Darsey, Georgia State University; Michael Osborn, University of Memphis; and Marilyn Young, Florida State University.