When a group of children known as the Little Rock Nine stepped onto the campus of Central High School of Arkansas on September 4th, 1957, they changed history forever. By being the first black students to attend a traditionally white high school, the nine students helped move America toward a more fair and constitutional attitude toward colored people. To Kill a Mockingbird was written during this time period and deals with many of the same cultural issues even though it’s story takes place a few decades earlier. If this were not the case and the novel’s characters had grown up during the same time as the Little Rock Nine, there is no doubt that Scout, Atticus, Bob Ewell, and many other characters would have had strong opinions about and may have even taken action for or against the Little Rock Nine or the Civil Rights movement as a whole.
The Little Rock Nine were part of a broad movement for civil rights that started in 1865 with the 13th amendment and still continues today. Many prominent figures emerged at the forefront of the cause such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, but the Little Rock Nine advanced civil rights in education by beginning the effort to desegregate schools. Their legacy still lives on as one of bravery and perseverance.
Their story started in 1954 when Brown v Board of Education ruled that segregation in schools was unconstitutional. It was the first legal decision that opposed the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine that had become standard since the Plessy v Ferguson case in 1896 which propagated segregation: “'separate' facilities provided for blacks and whites were legally acceptable provided that they were of an 'equal' standard” (Kirk, “Crisis at Central High”). Little Rock, Arkansas, was one of the first cities to try to implement the new regulation. The Arkansas school board planned on desegregating all three of their high schools, but a year before the scheduled desegregation they opted for a new transfer system. This system allowed white children to transfer to the black high school, but when 33 black students submitted transfer requests to one of the white high schools with help from the NAACP all of them were denied. In 1957, the year desegregation was planned, only 17 black students applied to transfer to Central High School, and that number was diminished to nine after eight students dropped out. Central High School would be the only school of the three original to desegregate.
September 4th, 1957, was supposed to be the first day of school for Elizabeth Eckford, Melba Patillo, Gloria Ray, Thelma Mothershed, Ernest Green, Terrance Roberts, Jefferson Thomas, Carlotta Walls, and Minnijean Brown. However, when they arrived to Central High School they were blocked entry by the National Guard and their pointed guns. Arkansas governor, Orval Faubus, had called the guards in the night before: “...the governor of Arkansas turned the situation into a political issue” (Kowalski 18). This was an outright...