Little Rock Nine
Racial discrimination and oppression has been a shameful part of the American history. Life in the 1950’s in many of the states still contain segregation policies and outright discrimination against Black Americans. These policies included the requirement that Black American children attend ‘Black only’ schools and were not allowed in the schools that white children attended. In the fall of 1957, nine Black American students were told by the U.S. Supreme Court that they had the right to attend the Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the uproar that occurred became a news item that spread across the country.
The nine students that wanted to attend the school became known as the “Little Rock Nine”. They were boys and girls that made their intentions known that they were going to show up at the school to attend. Arkansas was considered to be a southern state, and they carried many of the discrimination policies.
Orval Faubus, the Arkansas governor was completely against black children attending the school and he ordered armed National Guards to show up at the school under the idea that there might be bloodshed and violence. The armed guards were his way of trying to keep the kids from entering the school. President Eisenhower, not believing the story, met with the governor and very quickly, the guards were removed.
On September 23rd, the nine students appeared to enter Little Rock Central High School for the very first time. People had gathered and were yelling out verbal threats and abuse. The students ignored all of the people and went inside the school. Since the story had hit the national news there were journalists and cameramen from all over the country. This was considered to be a moment in history when discrimination laws were being forced to change.
Once the kids were inside the school building violence outside did start and the people attacked seven of the journalists, which included two that were LIFE Magazine reporters. The situation outside became worse and school officials began to fear for the safety of the students and decided to dismiss school at lunchtime.
Upon hearing what had happened, President Eisenhower ordered military paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division the next day for the purpose of escorting the students into the building and taking care of any troublemakers that would try to stop them. It took only a few days for the troublemakers to be removed, however armed guards remained on site to handle any others that might cause difficulties.
It wasn’t until September, 1957 that the Little Rock Nine were actually allowed to attend class at the school. Through the year they faced continual abuse and discrimination from the white members of the class and even some of the adults. By the spring of 1958, eight of the original “Little Rock Nine” had successfully completed the educational school year.
The presence of the students in Arkansas was the first major step in total integration of schools around America and became an important landmark in American history.