Remembering the Little Rock Nine
Chris Hart-Williams | Staff Writer
On this day in 1957, nine African American students made history as they entered an all-white high school in Arkansas, escorted by federal troops.
President Eisenhower deployed troops to escort nine African American students into Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., because it, like many other states at the time, were opposed to the outcome of Brown v. Board of Education. In a landmark decision three years prior, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Brown v. Board of Education case that segregated public schools were unconstitutional. Public schools around the nation were forced to desegregate with the help of groups like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Central High School still held on to its ways.
On this historic day, Gov. Orval Faubus, called in units of the National Guard to keep the nine students from entering the school. Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, Jefferson Thomas, Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Minnijean Brown, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Thelma Mothershed and Melba Pattillo Beals, who would later become known as the Little Rock Nine, made attempts to enter the school with their parents and ministers.
Alone, they faced angry mobs of segregationists who taunted them as they approached the school. Despite being spat on, screamed at, and threatened with hanging, they were determined and courageous. Despite strong opposition, desegregation was still possible.
The anniversary of this event stands for a moment in history where progress had just begun. Just decades ago, African American students and educators of school campuses today, would have been thought of as only housekeepers and janitors. Today, though the African American student experience is typically the polar opposite to that of our grandparents, there is still great progress to be made.
It is important that we remember the Little Rock Nine; their experience is significant to our country’s history. Their story shall serve as a reminder that change is in fact possible and the vision that citizens have for this country is up to us.