Although segregated schools were declared unconstitutional after the Brown v. Board of Educationruling in 1954, Arkansas officials neglected to heed the ruling after the NAACP registered nine students to attend a high school for the fall of 1957. Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, Jefferson Thomas, Terrence Roberts, Carlotta LaNier, Minnijean Brown, Gloria Ray Kalmark,Thelma Mothershed, and Melba Pattillo Beals were nicknamed the “Little Rock Nine.”
Segregationists who did not want the Black students in their schools promised protests, prompting Governor Faubus to deploy the Guard. The images of the soldiers blocking the frightened teens from entering the school ignited a firestorm of debate and controversy nationwide.
Trudging through the hostile environment, the “Nine” were cursed at and spat upon during the harrowing ordeal. On September 9, the Little Rock School district condemned Governor Faubus’ actions and even President Dwight Eisenhower would involve himself and warned that the Supreme Court’s decision of desegregated schools should not be ignored.
In a noble act, Little Rock Mayor Woodrow Mann requested that President Eisenhower send troops to protect and escort the students inside safely. On September 24, President Eisenhower sent federal troops to Little Rock and took over the Arkansas National Guard, effectively stripping Governor Faubus of his power.
The transition wasn’t without struggle as the “Nine” suffered racial and physical abuse for the entire school year from White students. Melba Pattillo even said that a student flung acid into her eyes and there were other atrocious acts as well.
Governor Faubus’ actions were indicative of many Southern conservative Democrats
Although the horrific treatment of the students marked how sick and twisted racist minds worked during the 1950s, the moment helped to motivate those within the Civil Rights Movement to fight even harder to combat similar injustices across the country. To make their struggle even more noteworthy, each of the “Nine” graduated from Little Rock Central and all went on to have amazing careers spanning the fields of journalism, accounting, social work and psychology.
Watch the “Little Rock Nine’s story here:
magine the hell the “Nine” endured for just a moment. The fact that each of them found a way through the madness and excelled far beyond every low expectation that their doubters had about them speaks volumes to the resiliency of the human spirit. The “Nine” and their fight for equality is a moment of our rich history that should not be forgotten or discounted.