The events surrounding the controversial and moving spectacle of the “Little Rock Nine” still reverberates in the minds of many with its stark imagery and political implications. The barring of nine Black African-American students who were prevented from entering Arkansas’ Little Rock Central High School on September 4, 1957, became known historically as the “Little Rock Crisis,” with then-Governor Orval Faubus calling in the National Guard to stop the students at the door. On this date in 1957, the nine students would begin integration of Little Rock Central along with federal and nearby Army troops.
Although segregated schools were declared unconstitutional after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling 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 RockSchool 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.