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Black Students arriveat Central H.S. 1957
*On this date in 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sends 1,000 U. S. government paratroopers to Little Rock, Ark., to desegregate schools.
The troops escort nine Black schoolchildren to Central High School in the first federally supported effort to integrate America’s public schools. on May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court issued its Brown v. Board of Education. Tied to the 14th Amendment, the decision declared all laws establishing segregated schools to be unconstitutional, and it called for the desegregation of all schools throughout the nation. After the decision, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) attempted to register Black students in previously all-white schools in cities throughout the South.
In Little Rock, Arkansas, the school board agreed to comply with the high court's ruling. Virgil Blossom, the Superintendent of Schools, submitted a plan of gradual integration to the school board on May 24, 1955, which the board unanimously approved. The plan would be implemented during the fall of the 1957 school year, which would begin in September 1957. By 1957, the NAACP had registered nine Black students to attend the previously all-white Little Rock Central High, selected on the criteria of excellent grades and attendance. Local activist Daisy Bates used ministers to escort the children into the school, two in front of the children and two behind. She thought that not only would they help protect the children physically but having ministers accompany them would "serve as powerful symbols against the bulwark of segregation."
Called the "Little Rock Nine", they were Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, Jefferson Thomas, Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Minnijean Brown, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Thelma Mothershed, and Melba Pattillo Beals. Ernest Green was the first Black to graduate from Central High School. Originally at orders of the governor, they were meant to prevent the Black students from entering due to claims that there was "imminent danger of tumult, riot, and breach of peace" at the integration.
However, President Eisenhower issued Executive order 10730, which federalized the Arkansas National Guard and ordered them to support the integration on September 24 of that year, after which they protected the African American students.
The Encyclopedia Britannica, Fifteenth Edition.
Copyright 1996 Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.