In May of 1954, the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case had declared the racial segregation of American public schools unconstitutional. The Supreme Court had called for the integration of schools, so that students of any race could attend any school without the concern of the “white-only” labels. The public school system of Little Rock, Arkansas agreed to comply with this new desegregated system, and by a year had a plan to integrate the students within all the public schools of Little Rock. By 1957, nine students had been selected by the Nation Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), chosen according to their outstanding grades and excellent attendance, and had been enrolled in the now-integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. But, the Little Rock Nine, consisting of Jefferson Thomas, Thelma Mothershed, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Elizabeth Eckford, Minnijean Brown, Ernest Green, Melba Pattillo Beals, Gloria Ray Karlmark, and Terrence Roberts, faced the angered, white segregationist students and adults upon their enrollment at Central High School. Thus began the true test; that of bravery of the students and that of the ethics of the white community.
The nine African-American students were not accepted into Central High graciously. White segregationists were angered and despised the idea of integration. Perhaps the angriest segregationist was Orval Faubus. Born in 1910, Orval Faubus became the Governor of Arkansas in 1955. He fought tooth and nail against the desegregation of Central High School, and personally appointed the Arkansas Nation Guard to block the Nine from entering the school. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, however, was not pleased with Faubus. After Faubus refused to back down, President Eisenhower directed parts of a squadron from the United States Army – specifically, the 101st Airborne Division – to Central High School in Little Rock to protect the Nine and to hold positions around the school. Thus, under protection from the U.S. Army, the Little Rock Nine entered the school.
The Nine were not untouchable, however. The students faced taunts and torments from bullies, and those bullies rarely, if ever, suffered consequences. These bullies taunted, spat on, abused, and called the Nine horrible names. One of the Nine, Melba Pattillo, suffered from acid being thrown into her eyes. Another student, Minnijean Brown, was pushed down in the school’s cafeteria, which caused her to drop her lunch. Some of her food landed on the white boys, and she was suspended.
The following year, 1958, was a commotion in Little Rock. Governor Orval Faubus signed bills which closed all public schools in Little Rock, including the recently segregated Central High School. With no where to go, the Little Rock Nine did not return to Central High and had no other choice but to pursue their education through private tutors or other means. The closing of the schools in 1958 did not stop these...