24 Photographs of Civil Rights Pioneers The Little Rock Nine

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The Little Rock Nine was a group of nine African American students who enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in 1957. They were Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, Jefferson Thomas, Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Minnijean Brown, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Thelma Mothershed, and Melba Pattillo Beals.

The Supreme Court on May 17, 1954, with the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, ruled that all laws establishing segregated schools were unconstitutional, and that all schools must be desegregated throughout the nation. In Little Rock, Arkansas, the school board agreed to comply with the court ruling and Superintendent Virgil Blossom, in 1955, submitted a plan of gradual integration. The Blossom Plan was to be implemented in September, 1957 for the start of the school year.

By 1957, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People registered nine African American students to attend the previously all-white school. At the beginning of the school year, several segregationist protested Central High and physically blocked the black students from entering the building. Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus sent the Arkansas National Guard to support the segregationists on September 4, 1957.

Eventually Woodrow Wilson Mann, the mayor of Little Rock, asked President Eisenhower to send federal troops to enforce the integration and to protect the Little Rock Nine. On September 24, the President sent the 101 Airborne Division to federalize the Arkansas National Guard, removing Faubus’ authority.

By the end of September, the nine were admitted to the Little Rock Central High with the protection of the 101 Airborne. Despite their protection, they were subject to verbal and physical abuse. Melba Patillo Beals had acid thrown in her eyes and on a separate occasion was trapped in a restroom stall and had burning pieces of paper dropped on her. Minnijean Brown was harassed by a group of male students in December and dropped her lunch onto them. She was suspended for six days. Two months later, after a second altercation, Brown was suspended for the rest of the year. She eventually transferred to New Lincoln High School in New York City.

Governor Orval Faubus, after this turbulent year, petitioned the Supreme Court case and attempted to postpone the desegregation of Little Rock public schools. Faubus eventually signed legislation that allowed him to shut down the public high schools. After the “Lost Year,” the public schools opened the integrated students could resume their long and steady march towards equality.

Little Rock Nine. Chicago Tonight
Protesting school integrations. vk.com
A group of anti-integrationists following two black students down a street in Little Rock, Arkansas, harassing them. tesd.libguides
Segregationists picket in Little Rock. CNN
Arkansas National Guardsmen prevent African American students from entering Little Rock Central High School, September 1957. tesd.libguides
A convoy of jeeps from the 101st Airborne heads to Little Rock. The billboard they pass reads, Who will beuild Arkansas if her own people do not? tesd.libguides
Troops race to break up a crowd protesting school integration, Little Rock 1957. tesd.libguides
Reporter interviewing one of the Little Rock Nine 1957. Photo by Burt Glinn.
Civil Rights leader Daisy Bates watches the 101 Airborne escort the Little Rock Nine from her home to begin their first day of class. tesd.libguides
Arkansas governor, Orval Faubus, tried to block the integration of the school by calling in the state National Guard, President Eisenhower sent in the 101st Airborn to ensure the students could safely attend the school. history
Elisabeth Eckford, one of the first African-American students at Little Rock Central High being harassed by Hazel Massery, 1957. Reddit
Minnijean Brown, 15, one of the Little Rock Nine, arrives outside Central High School, as members of the 101st Division of the Airborne Command stand ready to protect her and the other African-American students. history
Little Rock, Arkansas: September 9, 1957. Students at the North Little Rock HIgh School blocked the doors of the school to prevent six Negro students who had been enrolled earlier at the school from entering. The picture shows a white student daring a Negro to try and enter. Just after this picture was taken, the Negroes were shoved down a flight of stairs and out to the sidewalk. Superstock
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