SPECIAL ON MLK PART 1 - Flipbook - Page 9
he civil rights movement drew many young people into a maelstrom of meetings, marches and
imprisonment. Some were wide-eyed idealists pursuing a cause and ignoring any consequence.
Others sensed they were making history, even though they didn’t know the outcome. And some were
just kids, doing what kids do. All of them made history in exposing decades of institutional segregation,
white supremacy, and oppression and stirring a nation into action
Little Rock Nine
Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division
escort the Little Rock Nine students into the
all-white Central High School in Little Rock,
Photo: U.S. Army/National Archives/Wikimedia
The landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court
decision Brown v. Board of Education set in
motion the racial integration of the nation’s
schools. Resistance was widespread across
the country and in 1955 the Court issued a
second opinion (sometimes known as “Brown II”) ordering school districts to integrate “with all deliberate
In response to the Brown decisions and pressure from the NAACP, the Little Rock, Arkansas, school
board adopted a plan for gradual integration, beginning with Little Rock Central High School.
In the summer of 1957, Daisy Bates, president of the Arkansas NAACP, recruited nine high school
students who she believed possessed the strength and determination to face the resistance to integration.
They were Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Patillo, Gloria
Ray, Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas and Carlotta Walls. In the months prior to the start of the school
year, the students participated in intensive counseling sessions on what to expect and how to respond.
Two days before school opened, on September 2, 1957, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus ordered the
National Guard to bar African American students from entry to the state’s schools, stating it was “for their
own protection.” The next day, federal court judge Richard Davies issued a counter-ruling that
desegregation would proceed.
As the nine African American students attempted to enter the school on September 4, a crowd of angry
white students and adults, and the National Guard, were there to meet them. As the students walked
toward the front door, the white protesters drew closer, screaming racial epithets and spitting on them.
Ultimately the Guard prevented the students from entering the school.