Public School Desegregation

View item information

WSB-TV newsfilm clip of African American students--the "Little Rock Nine"--integrating Central High School and white students burning an effigy in protest in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1957 October 3.

Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, gained national attention when Governor Orval Faubus mobilized the Arkansas National Guard to prevent integration.  President Dwight D. Eisenhower responded by federalizing the guard and removing it from Faubus's control, and ordering United States Army troops to oversee the integration. On September 25, 1957, the students, known as the “Little Rock Nine,” successfully integrated Central High School. 

Elsewhere across the nation in subsequent years, desegregation ensued, sometimes amid controversy although usually peacefully.  In 1960, Georgia governor Ernest Vandiver, Jr., faced with either closing public schools or complying with federal desegregation, directed the Georgia General Assembly to create the General Assembly Committee on Schools, which established the Sibley Commission to gauge public sentiment regarding school desegregation.

After extensive hearings, Atlanta businessman John Sibley recommended that the state accept the federal decision to desegregate the schools despite the commission's somewhat negative findings. In January of 1961, Vandiver introduced a bill accepting the Sibley Commission's recommendations for desegregation. Murphy High School was among the first all-white schools in Atlanta, Georgia to desegregate; the other schools were Brown High, Henry Grady High, and Northside High, all of whom admitted African American students on August 30, 1961.