This week, 57 years ago, was a tumultuous one for nine African American students at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Now better known as the Little Rock Nine, these high school students were part of a several year battle to integrate Little Rock School District after the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling.
From that ruling on, it was a tough uphill battle to get the Little Rock School District to integrate. On a national level, all eight congressmen from Arkansas were part of the “Southern Manifesto,” encouraging Southern states to resist integration. On a local level, white citizens’ councils, like the Capital Citizens Council and the Mothers’ League of Central High School, were formed in Little Rock to protest desegregation. They also lobbied politicians, in particular Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, who went on to block the 1957 desegregation of Central High School.
These tensions escalated throughout September 1957—which saw the Little Rock Nine barred from entering the school by Arkansas National Guard troops sent by Faubus. Eventually, Federal District Judge Ronald Davies was successful in ordering Faubus to stop interfering with desegregation. Integration began during this week, 57 years ago.
On September 23, 1957, the nine African American students entered Central High School by a side door, while a mob of more than 1,000 people crowded the building. Local police were overwhelmed, and the protesters began attacking African American reporters outside the school building.
President Eisenhower, via Executive Order 10730, sent the U.S. Army to Arkansas to escort the Little Rock Nine into school, on September 25, 1957. The students attended classes with soldiers by their side. By the end of the month, a now federalized National Guard had mostly taken over protection of the students. While eventually the protests died down, the abuse and tension did not. The school was eventually shut down from 1958 through fall 1959 as the struggle for segregation continued.
Through the DPLA, you can get a better sense of what that struggle and tension was like. In videos from our service hub, Digital Library of Georgia, you can view news clips recorded during this historic time in Little Rock. These videos are a powerful testament to the struggle of the Little Rock Nine, and the Civil Rights movement as a whole.
Related items in DPLA