On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education ordered schools throughout the United States to desegregate “…with all deliberate speed.” However, the Court did not give a date for the change to begin. Three years later, Little Rock Central High School was not desegregated.
On August 23, 1954, the NAACP petitioned Little Rock School Board for the immediate integration of schools. However, on May 24, 1955, Little Rock School Board accepted a plan put forth by Virgil Blossom, Superintendent of schools, to slowly begin integrating starting with the high schools, with lower schools to be included over the following six years.
In a lawsuit Arron v. Cooper February 8, 1956, the federal Court agreed with Little Rock School Board and dismissed the NAACP suit. The case was appealed and upheld by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. In addition, Blossom’s plan was made a court mandate.
On August 29, a motion made by the segregationist’s group Mother’s League of Central High School to stop the integration is granted and an injunction administered barring the School Board from integrating schools. Shortly thereafter, federal Judge Ronald Davies nullifies the injunction and orders the School Board to continue with its plans for desegregation.
Defying a federal court order, on September 2, 1957, governor Orval Faubus activated the Arkansas National Guard and had them block the entrance to Little Rock Central High School. In a press conference on the same day, he cited the need to "maintain and restore order" and went on to say Little Rock's schools "must be operated on the same basis as they have been in the past." On September 20, the federal court orders the National Guard to be removed. Faubus replaced the National Guard and the Little Rock Police Department.
On September 23, 1957, nine black students Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Earnest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Partillio, Gloria Ray, Terrance Roberts, Jefferson Thomas and Carlotta Walls entered Little Rock Central High School undetected and escorted by Little Rock Police through the side door. In front of the school stood a crowd of whites opposed to desegregation. They had heard black students would attempt to enter the school. When the crowd discovered what they heard was true, they became hostile and the students were escorted out of the building.
On September 24, the Mayor of Little Rock, Woodrow Wilson Mann sent a telegram to President Dwight D. Eisenhower requesting he immediately send federal troops to
Little Rock to help maintain order and democracy. Later that day, the president issued Executive Order 10730, federalizing the entire Arkansas National Guard and ordered them to Little Rock.
On September 25, 1957, the nine black students entered
High School under the security of soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division of the National Guard. In the spring of 1958, Earnest Green was the first black to graduate from Little Rock Central High School.
Little Rock Central High School, 2120 Daisy Bates Drive, Little Rock, AR 72202, Visitor Center 501-374-1957. Pictures taken December 27, 2005.
Charles Guggenheim. "Nine From Little Rock.", Guggenheim Productions Inc., 2005. DVD.
Rubel, David. "The Coming Free: The Struggle for African-American Equality." New York: DK Publishing, 2005. Print.
Appiah, Kwame, Anthony and Gates, Henry Louis, ed. "Africana The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience." 1st ed. New York: Civitas, 1999. Print.
"Civil Rights: The Little Rock School Integration Crisis." eisenhower.archives.gov/index.html, Web. 16 Dec. 2005.
"Little Rock Central High School." nps.gov/nr/travel/civilrights/ak1.htm, Web. 16 Dec. 2005.
Little Rock Central High School. Little Rock, AR. 27 Dec. 2005.
SUBMITTED: April 5, 2008.
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