User:Kayleneannawyn/Little Rock Nine

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Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division escort the Little Rock Nine students into the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Ark.

The Little Rock Nine refer to nine students who were initially prevented from taking classes at Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, AR, in 1957. Three years after Brown v. Board, Little Rock Central School Destrict began to implement a gradual integration program for the 1957 school year.[1] The first black students enrolled in Central High were Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Patillo, Gloria Ray, Terrance Roberts, Jefferson Thomas and Carlotta Walls. Each of the students was hand-picked by the NAACP on account of their exceptional academic records at segregated schools. But the Little Rock Nine, as they came to be known, would not attend their first day of classes. The White Citizens' Council organized a mob of segregationists to block the front entrance and prevent the students from entering. The mob, shouting “Two, four, six, eight, we ain’t gonna integrate!” threw projectiles at the school building and spat on the black students trying to enter. Under the pretense of maintaining public order, Governor Orval Faubus deployed the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the students from attending classes.

Constitutional crisis[edit]

In nullifying the city’s own integration plan and opposing the mandate of Brown v. Board, Governor Faubus and the State of Arkansas were in open defiance of the Supreme Court and President Eisenhower. Arkansas’ non-cooperation quickly evolved into one of the worst constitutional crises since Reconstruction and an embarrassment to the Eisenhower Administration. In a meeting with the President, Governor Faubus had agreed to withdraw the National Guard and allow the Little Rock Nine to attend school. However, upon his return—and possibly due to pressure from his statewide, pro-segregation constituency—Faubus reneged on his promise. At the request of Little Rock Mayor Woodrow Mann, Eisenhower responded by nationalizing the Arkansas National Guard and deploying the Army’s 101st Airborne Division. The troops essentially occupied the school, allowing the students to enter and protecting them in the hallways between classes. It was the first time the federal government deployed troops in the South since Reconstruction.

The Lost Year[edit]

In an end-around of the federal government’s forced integration, Governor Faubus pushed through legislation to permit him to shut down all of Little Rock School District’s high schools for the 1958-59 school year. Faubus hoped to lease the schools out to private academies that would be exempt from federal integration mandates. Little Rock’s black students were denied the right to educate that was guaranteed them in Brown v. Board. This would come to be known as the “Lost Year.” During the Lost Year, much of the town turned against the black community. The majority of white voters supported the shutdown but blamed the Little Rock Nine for the consequences. They subjected the black community to hate crimes, including the bombing of one of the students’ homes. The remaining seven of the Little Rock Nine took correspondence courses or transferred to other high schools in order to continue their studies. The school closing was later ruled unconstitutional.


The saga unfolded on national television, drawing national ire against Governor Faubus and support for the students. The conduct of the Little Rock Nine helped galvanize civil rights activists and prompted a wave of nonviolent protest. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who attended Ernest Green’s graduation, would take his place at the head of the movement, preaching nonviolence and civil disobedience.

The violent methods of segregationists, on display in living rooms around the country, helped convince moderate voters and congressmen that a federal civil rights law was necessary to enforce African Americans’ entitlement to equal protection. In 1999, President Bill Clinton presented each of the Little Rock Nine with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor that Congress can bestow.

See also[edit]

  • White Citizens' Council
  • Massive Resistance
  • Jim Crow laws

External links[edit]