Little Rock

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Little Rock- Background

  • After the Supreme Court's Brown vs Topeka decision, the Little Rock school board accepted the fact that it had to integrate and began working on an integration plan. The school board was not particularly happy about having to integrate, however, and it took three years to work out a minimalistic plan.
  •  The plan called for integration in three phases. In the first phase, during the 1957-1958 school year, the senior high schools (grades 10-12) would be integrated. The junior high schools (grades 7-9) would be integrated after successful integration at the senior high level, followed by the elementary schools (grades 1-6).
  • As the 1957-1958 school year drew near, the board began to plan for integration at the senior high level. 
  • The board selectedhese nine students faced adversity well before the opening of the school year. 
  • The students faced opposition from not only the white community but the black community as well. Melba Pattillo, a 15-year-old who was one of the nine, was confronted by a black adult at church one Sunday.
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Little Rock- Background

  • After the Supreme Court's Brown vs Topeka decision, the Little Rock school board accepted the fact that it had to integrate and began working on an integration plan. The school board was not particularly happy about having to integrate, however, and it took three years to work out a minimalistic plan.
  •  The plan called for integration in three phases. In the first phase, during the 1957-1958 school year, the senior high schools (grades 10-12) would be integrated. The junior high schools (grades 7-9) would be integrated after successful integration at the senior high level, followed by the elementary schools (grades 1-6).
  • As the 1957-1958 school year drew near, the board began to plan for integration at the senior high level. 
  • The board selectedhese nine students faced adversity well before the opening of the school year. 
  • The students faced opposition from not only the white community but the black community as well. Melba Pattillo, a 15-year-old who was one of the nine, was confronted by a black adult at church one Sunday.
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Little Rock- Background

  • On September 2, 1957, the day before the nine black students were to enter Central High, National Guardsmen surrounded the school.
  •  In a televised speech that night, Governor Orval Faubus explained that he had called the National Guardmen because he had heard that white supremacists from all over the state were descending on Little Rock.
  •  He declared Central off-limits to blacks and Horace Mann, the black high school, off-limits to whites. He also proclaimed that if the black students attempted to enter Central, "blood would run in the streets."
  • The black students did not attend the first day of school.
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Little Rock- Background

  • Early on Wednesday, September 4, Daisy Bates of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), who was helping out the nine, called to tell them that they were to meet a few blocks away from the school and walk in together. 
  • Unfortunately, Elizabeth Eckford, one of the nine, did not have a phone. She never received the message and attempted to enter the school alone through the front entrance. An angry mob met her, threatening to lynch her, as the Arkansas National Guard looked on.
  •  Fortunately, two whites stepped forward to aid her, and she escaped without injury. The other eight were also denied admittance by the National Guard, under orders from Governor Faubus.
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Little Rock- Background

  • On September 20, Judge Ronald N. Davies granted NAACP lawyers Thurgood Marshall and Wiley Branton an injunction that prevented Governor Faubus from using the National Guard to deny the nine black students admittance to Central High.
  •  Faubus announced that he would comply with the court order, although he hoped that the black students would choose to stay away from Central until integration could occur without violence. 
  • On Monday, September 23, the nine black students, often called "The Little Rock Nine" set off for Central High. Meanwhile, the mob outside the school beat several black reporters there to cover the event. The reporters were saved when word came that the black students had entered the school. The mob went crazy.
  • Inside the school, the black students became the brunts of various jokes. White students spat on them, tripped them, and yelled insults. More serious problems were to come. By 11:30, the city police surrounding the school felt that they could no longer control the mob. The students had to leave the school through a rear entrance.
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Little Rock- Consequences

  • These 9 students made huge waves in the civil right movement.
  • Not only did they show that blacks could fight for their rights and win, they also brought the idea of segregation to the forefront of people's minds.
  • They showed the nation what extreme and horrible measures some whites would take to protect segregation.
  • They inspired the idea of "sit-ins" and Freedom Rides.
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Little Rock- Background

  • To ensure that the Little Rock Nine could complete a full day of classes, President Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne Division into Little Rock. 
  • The 101st patrolled outside the school and escorted the black students into the school. In addition, the black students were assigned a personal guard from the 101st who followed them around the school. 
  • Still, they were subjects of unspeakable hatred. White students yelled insults in the halls and during class. They beat up the black students, particularly the boys. They walked on the heels of the blacks until they bled. They destroyed the black students' lockers and threw flaming paper wads at them in the bathrooms.
  • Gradually, the 101st Airborne left Central High and the black students were left to fend for themselves. By the time Christmas rolled around, they were certainly ready for a vacation. 
  • In May, despite numerous protests and under the watchful eye of 125 federalized Arkansas National Guardsmen, Ernest Green became the first black graduate of Central High, the sole minority student in his 602-member class.
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