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Little Rock Nine

Dwight Eisenhower

Little Rock Nine: Dwight Eisenhower was the 34th American President who served in office from January 20, 1953 to January 20, 1961. One of the important events during his presidency was the Little Rock Nine.

Definition and Summary of the Little Rock Nine

Summary and definition: The Little Rock Nine crisis erupted on September 4, 1957 when Orval Faubus, the Governor of Arkansas, the refused the admission of nine African American students to the racially segregated Little Rock Central High school.

On September 23, 1957, President Dwight Eisenhower sent in U.S. troops to enforce integration at Little Rock's Central High School in the face of violent white opposition to the de-segregation of schools.

What was the Little Rock Nine Crisis? The Little Rock Nine crisis occurred in Little Rock, Arkansas on September 4, 1957 when Governor Orval Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to prevent African American students from enrolling at Central High School, an all white school.

What caused the Little Rock Nine crisis? The Little Rock Nine crisis was caused by efforts to integrate Little Rock's public schools following the Supreme Court decision in the 1954 legal case of Brown vs Board of Education which outlawed segregated public schools.

What were the names of the Little Rock Nine? The names of the Little Rock Nine students were Ernest Green, Carlotta Walls, Thelma Mothershed, Elizabeth Eckford, Terrace Roberts, Gloria Ray, Jefferson Thomas, Melba Pattillo, and Minnijean Brown.

Who was Daisy Bates? Daisy Bates was an African American civil rights activist and newspaper journalist who coordinated the integration of the Little Rock Central High School.

Facts about Little Rock Nine
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Little Rock Nine.

Background History: The Plessy vs. Ferguson Case of 1896 declared segregation to be constitutional which led to the segregation of the Jim Crow Laws and "separate but equal" public facilities which included public schools.

Background History: The “separate but equal” doctrine ruled that racial segregation was constitutional and valid under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, as long as the facilities provided for whites and blacks were roughly equal.

Background History: The 1954 Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka Supreme Court case regarding school desegregation dismissed the "separate but equal" arguments ruling that segregation in public schools was prohibited by the Constitution. 

Chief Justice Earl Warren summed up the Brown vs Brown decision of the Supreme Court when he wrote, "In the field of public education, the doctrine of separate but equal has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal".

The Brown vs Brown decision sparked the Civil Rights movement when the protest by Rosa Parks led to the  Montgomery Bus Boycott that successfully challenged segregation on buses. Civil Rights organizations such as the NAACP, CORE and the SCLC were galvanized into action. The Little Rock Nine crisis would challenge segregation in schools.

At this time in history, the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia had all prohibited black and white children from attending the same school,

Some states accepted the Supreme Court ruling and began to desegregate. However, several states in the Deep South, including Arkansas, refused to accept the judgment.

On May 22, 1954 Five days after the ruling of the Brown v. Board of Education case, the Little Rock School Board issued a policy statement saying it would comply with decision of the Supreme Court.

Virgil T. Blossom (1907–1965) was the superintendent of the Little Rock School District from 1953 to 1958. Blossom developed a plan for gradual integration for the Little Rock school district that was put into effect in 1957, despite opposition from Orval Faubus, the Governor of Arkansas.

The Little Rock School Board adopted the Blossom Plan of gradual integration, beginning with the high school level in September 1957 and the lower grades over the next six years.

Little Rock Central High School, an academically renowned school, had 2000 white students. Nine African American students, Ernest Green, Carlotta Walls, Thelma Mothershed, Elizabeth Eckford, Terrace Roberts, Gloria Ray, Jefferson Thomas, Melba Pattillo, and Minnijean Brown attempted to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas for the 1957-1958 school year.

The students, who became known as the Little Rock Nine, were recruited by Daisy Bates, a newspaper journalist and president of the Arkansas branch of the NAACP.

Many of the white community in Little Rock were against the Blossom integration plan. On August 27, 1957 the segregationist Mother’s League of Central High School held its first public meeting and filed a motion seeking a temporary injunction against school integration.

Two days later, on August 29, 1957,  Pulaski County chancellor Murray O. Reed granted the injunction, on the grounds that integration could lead to violence.

Federal Judge Ronald Davies nullified the injunction on August 30, 1957, ruling that the state chancery court had no jurisdiction over the school case and ordered that desegregation proceed.

On September 4, 1957 Governor Orval Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to surround the Central High School, preventing the nine African-American students from entering the school.

Judge Davies responded by repeating his order that integration be implemented "forthwith" and ordered the Department of Justice to enter the case

The next day, on September 4, 1957, the Arkansas National Guard, who continued to surround the Central High School, were joined by an angry mob of white supremacists in protest at the Blossom integration plan.

The African American students were intimidated by the mob who forced the withdrawal of the Little Rock Nine from the school.

The Little Rock Nine incident received massive media coverage and turned into a political crisis. The governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus, had used the armed forces of a state to oppose the authority of the federal government. It was the first such challenge to the Constitution since the Civil War.

On September 14, 1957 President Eisenhower met Governor Orval Faubus at Newport, Rhode Island. The meeting failed to end the crisis and,the next week, the district court ordered Governor Faubus to remove the Arkansas National Guard.

Faubus removed the Guard on Friday, September 20, 1957. However, a mob consisting of approximately 1,000 white supremacists forced the withdrawal of the Little Rock Nine from the school on the following Monday.

School windows were smashed, African American reporters were beaten and the terrified 'Little Rock Nine' had to be taken to safety by the police.

On September 24, 1957, after trying for 18 days to persuade Governor Orval Faubus to obey the ruling of the Supreme Court, President Eisenhower ordered the 101st Airborne Division paratroopers from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to Little Rock and placed the Arkansas National Guard under federal command.

On September 24, 1957, U.S. soldiers surrounded the school, bayonets fixed. The 'Little Rock Nine' arrived at the Central High School in an army station wagon and were finally allowed to attend classes.

At the end of the school year, Ernest Green of the 'Little Rock Nine' became the first African American to graduate from Central High School. Dr. Martin Luther King attended his graduation ceremony.

The white population of Little Rock were furious that they were being forced to integrate their school and Governor Orval Faubus described the federal troops as "an army of occupation". Faubus then closed all the high schools, forcing the African American students to go to out-of-state schools or take correspondence courses.

In December 1959, the Supreme Court ruled that the school board must reopen the schools and resume the process of de-segregating the city’s schools.

The school board reopened the schools, and despite more violence, African American students returned to Central High School, this time protected by local police.

In 1999 the 'Little Rock Nine' each received the Congressional Gold Medal for their efforts to de-segregate Little Rock Central High School.

US American History
1945-1993: Cold War Era

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