The Little Rock Crisis occurred in 1957, when Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus ordered the National Guard to physically bar nine African American students from entering Little Rock Central High School, despite segregation being outlawed. The “Nine” were carefully chosen by Daisy Bates, the president of the Arkansas National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and interviewed them to make sure that they were strong and determined enough to be able to handle what awaited them, as well as academically adept enough to attend the school.
The students indeed had enough valor and willpower to make a stand and attend Central High despite the obstacles in their way. Their story was documented through countless newspaper articles that were distributed throughout the country. The crisis was not just a small event that affected the people of Little Rock or even just Arkansas, the entire nation was involved.
Despite the verbal and physical harassment and actions taken against them by their own governor, the Little Rock Nine were determined to attend Little Rock Central High and brought attention to the segregation of the American school system, which was the fundamental first step towards integration. In 1957, racism was common in America, especially in southern states such as Arkansas. The Nine students were not alone in trying to end segregation, as many people across the nation were also trying to defeat discrimination against African Americans.
This battle was known as the Civil Rights Movement, which began in 1919 (though it didn’t gain much publicity until the 1950s) and ended in the 1960s [(anken)]. As for ending segregation specifically in the public school system, the court case Brown v. Board of Education legally outlawed segregation three years before the Crisis took place. It was a huge achievement in the Civil Rights Movement and gave many African Americans hope towards the future. However, though it was deemed unconstitutional, the ruling was not strictly followed and almost all schools refused to integrate, including Little Rock Central High (“Brown l”).
In addition to the Civil Rights Movement, America was involved in the Cold War at the time (“The Cold War”). This most likely was the reason for Eisenhower’s involvement with Little Rock Nine, which will be discussed more in depth later. It is likely that Eisenhower wanted to put an end to the Crisis before news of it spread out of America’s borders and into propaganda newspapers in the Soviet Union. FIX THIS PARAGRAPH IT’S CRAP The biggest obstacle for the Little Rock Nine was physically ente
The first time the African American students tried to attend the school was on September 4th, 1957, which was the second day of classes for the white students. This was because it was too dangerous for the Nine to even attempt to go to school on the regular first day of classes. They had already heard about the soldiers and mob from the news, but they hadn’t realized it would be as extensive as what had greeted them (Pattillo 40-48). 250 uniformed soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder in front of the entrances of the school. They allowed in the white students, but not the black students.
These soldiers were sent out by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, who claimed that they were deployed to maintain peace (“Entry Banned”). Elizabeth Eckford, an especially brave member of the Nine, stood in front of the soldiers and most of the crowd had their eyes set on her: “… we [Pattillo and her mother] could see how erect and proud she stood despite the fear she must have been feeling” (Pattillo 49). She challenged the armed forces by trying to push her way through the wall of soldiers, but to no avail (“Entry Banned”).
In addition to the soldiers, a crowd of white people surrounded the school. Some people had come from different states in order to protest. They shouted derogatory words and spat at the students as they tried to push through the crowd. Many were chased off the scene and feared for their lives, as getting caught would ultimately either kill them or seriously injure them (Pattillo 50-51). Despite having such a harrowing experience on the first day of school, the nine students were not discouraged. They were not going to give up so easily.
In her memoir, Warriors Don’t Cry, Melba Pattillo, one of the African American students, includes an excerpt from a diary entry she wrote on the first day the Little Rock Nine tried to enter the school: “… if I don’t go back, they will think they have won. They will think they can use soldiers to frighten us, and we’ll always have to obey them. They’ll always be in charge if I don’t go back to Central and make integration happen” (48-55). This quote explains Pattillo’s reasoning for continuing to fight for her right to enter the school, despite the traumatic experiences that she and the other African American students endured.
After the perilous first day, the Nine were told not to return to the school until action was taken against Faubus. On September 20th, 1957, a trial took place concerning Faubus’s decision to deploy the National Guardsmen (“Sept. 20”). Even after several weeks of feeling completely powerless, the Nine did not lose hope and continued to fight for their right to attend Central. During the trial, two of the nine African American students — Ernest Green and Elizabeth Eckford — testified. “[Eckford] did not complain about the life-threatening mob that had traumatized her.
She sat erect, speaking calmly… ” (Pattillo 100). This quote shows Eckford’s amazing courage and professionalism despite the daunting situation. Another account of her bravery is shown in one of the most famous pictures of the Little Rock Nine. In the photo, Eckford is walking, book in hand and stony-faced, as a white woman shouts derogatory and racist insults. Despite her calm exterior, Eckford was having many troubling internal struggles. As an adult, she struggled with depression and was even diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder due to her experiences during the Crisis (Siek).
On several occasions, Eckford surely felt extremely frightened, but did not show it to her white audience. She bravely stood up for herself despite the crowd of unfriendly faces staring back at her. Her courage helped persuade Judge Ronald Davies into taking action against Faubus. He had Faubus remove the troops and had the Little Rock police force escort the Nine students into Central High for the first time on September 23rd (“Crisis”). Although they had finally succeeded in entering the school, they struggled with staying within the school.
The African American students were not able to complete their school day, as the mobs of protests grew too rowdy for the police force to handle and the students had to quickly be escorted back home before they were seriously injured (“Police and Mob”). Even before this incident, Eisenhower expressed concern for the Nine and even invited Governor Faubus over to the White House to “talk things over” (“Faubus Set”). However, after witnessing the violence in Little Rock, he decided to take action.
On September 24th, 1957, Eisenhower made a speech at the White House, addressing the “serious situation in Little Rock” and revealing his plans for helping the Little Rock Nine (“The Serious Situation”). He federalized 10,000 National Guardsmen and used them to escort the Little Rock Nine into school, rather than to keep them out. He also deployed 1,000 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division to help keep back the mob (Mueller). Because of Eisenhower’s aid, the Nine were finally able to attend their first full day of school at Central High on September 25th, 1957, twenty-two days after the white students started school (“Crisis”).
The Nine were patient for twenty-two days and endured physical and emotional tests of their strength. They were scared, but that did not stop them from achieving their goals. They did not back down as the protesters had hoped. Although they were twenty-two days late, the Little Rock Nine took a stand and attended Central High despite all the obstacles that tried to break their resolve. However, now that they were in the school, a different struggle awaited them — surviving the school day. In school, they were surrounded by hundreds of white tudents and were tormented endlessly, but they persevered and continued going to school despite knowing the inevitable racism they would face. The soldiers deployed by Eisenhower knew that the Nine would be terrorized during school, so each of the Nine was assigned a soldier to follow them around in the hallways and protect them. A few soldiers roamed the halls in case a fight broke out and the assigned soldier needed back up. Even with so much protection, the students were still physically and verbally abused. For example, Pattillo endured abuse such as name-calling, death threats, stabbings, chokings, and beatings.
She also once had dynamite thrown at her, as well as had acid thrown into her eyes, and had flaming pieces of toilet paper showered onto her while she was trapped in a bathroom stall (Pattillo 151-173). The Nine mostly ignored the bullies, but eventually the soldiers had to leave. After the soldiers left, the abuse only got worse. Although many of the African American students continued to “just go with it,” Minnijean Brown did not tolerate it as well as the other students (“Minnijean Brown”). On December 7th, one day before winter break and three days after the soldiers left, Brown was suspended.
She had poured hot chili onto two boys that had been bullying her during lunch. She returned to school on January 13th only to be expelled a little more than a month later on February 18th (Pattillo 218, 243). Brown later revealed in an interview what she had done to get expelled: “As I was going in my homeroom one morning, these girls threw a purse at me, and I picked it up, and it had six combination locks in it. And I stupidly just dropped it onto the floor and said ‘Leave me alone, white trash” (“Minnijean Brown”). Despite the consequences, Brown did not allow the white students to put her beneath them.
She stood up against her bullies and didn’t let them push her around. Even so, it seemed extremely odd that Brown had been expelled for such a minor offense. Many white students had done much worse to the Nine, but they were never punished. It was obvious that even the authority figures in the school were discriminating against the African American students Although Brown was the only one to be formally punished by the school, she was not alone in fighting back against the white students. Pattillo recalls several occasions in which she retaliated against her attacker in order to escape.
This included things such as biting their arm, twisting their ankle, stomping on their foot, and even kicking them in the crotch. However, there was never an adult present nor enough proof for her to get punished (Pattillo 113-225). Both Brown and Pattillo didn’t allow their white bullies to have the satisfaction of a reaction, but at the same time they protected themselves and did not allow their hecklers to step all over them. MORE RESEARCH Today, the students of Little Rock Nine are still considered big heroes in the Civil Rights Movement.
Although they were not considered heroes by much of the country during their time, their struggle was nationally renown. Its fame played a large role in why the Little Rock Crisis was so significant. It used its recognition to really emphasize the segregation that remained in America’s school systems despite segregation being outlawed. Bringing attention to a problem is the first step to solving it. This statement was proven true, as America’s current school systems were completely integrated due to the crucial first step accomplished by the Little Rock Nine.
REDO WHOLE PARAGRAPH, DIFF HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THEIR STANDS As for short term effects, [the nine students] were able to receive [a higher education) that many African Americans their age did not have access to. Each of the Nine, except for Brown and those who were juniors when they first attended the school, returned to Little Rock Central High after the “Lost Year” in which Little Rock’s schools were shut down. Even though some of the Nine were not able to graduate from Central High, they all received a higher education than most.
Then, they went off to college and proceeded to do a variety of meaningful things with their life, including serving in the military, writing books recounting their experience with Central High, and becoming a teacher (“The Little Rock”). The Little Rock Nine were young, brave heroes whose determination and persistence is still being honored today. They went against angry mobs of people, ignored endless threats, endured physical pain, and turned the other cheek against countless insults and derogatory names. They did not allow others to control them just because they were the minority.
They were patient and did not let the mere passing of time discourage them in periods when all they could do was wait. Their struggle was announced through newspapers throughout the nation and brought much-needed attention towards the lingering refusal to integrate. After graduating high school, they all had great personal achievements. The Little Rock Nine continue to inspire people to fight against what society had already set for them, as they took a stand and consistently worked to achieve what they set their mind to.