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Last time in these pages I discussed the Supreme Court’s decision in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case, out of Topeka, Kansas. It attempted to rollback the premise that, if schools were “equal” in quality, then they may remain “separated” between blacks and whites.

Chief Justice Earl Warren disagreed. On May 31, 1955, Earl Warren insisted that Southern states must initiate desegregation plans in their schools “with all deliberate speed.”

“Massive resistance” across the Southern states erupted. School boards closed their schools, abolished compulsory attendance laws, and redirected public funds to schools now made private.

The primary test for desegregation occurred in Little Rock, Arkansas, in September 1957, at Central High School, when its doors opened on September 4, the first day of school.

Daisy Gaston Bates—president of Arkansas’s NAACP and co-publisher of the Arkansas State Press—recruited 9 African-American students, 3 boys and 6 girls, who agreed to try to walk in and attend the all-white school that day.

Their names were Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Thelma Mothershed, Gloria Ray, Melba Pattilo, Carlotta Watts, Ernest Green, Terrance Roberts, and Jefferson Thomas.

On Tuesday, September 3, a federal judge named Ronald Davies ruled that desegregation would continue as planned the next day.

That evening Daisy Gaston Bates called eight of the nine, except for Elizabeth Eckford, and offered to drive them to the school together. Elizabeth did not get the message as to where to meet because her family had no telephone.

On Wednesday morning, September 4, a mob of over 1000 angry white adults and students gathered at the school’s front door and chanted, “Two, four, six, eight, we ain’t gonna integrate!”

Arkansas’s Governor, Orval Faubus, ordered the state’s National Guard to the school “to prevent violence.” The soldiers stood ramrod straight, each holding a firearm with a bayonet.

The crowd went wild once they heard the news, “They’re inside,” because the eight had slipped into the school through a side door.

It was then that fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Eckford stepped toward the front door alone.

Students, adult men, and women, all white, gathered around her, jeered at her, ridiculed her, called her names, and hurled a stream of “racial slurs, vicious insults, and threats” of violence. A photographer’s pictures of the girl’s brave attempt made world wide news.

She later described the day, “When I was able to steady my knees, I walked up to the guard who had let the white students in. He didn’t move. When I tried to squeeze past him, he raised his bayonet, and then the other guards moved in, and they raised their bayonets.

“They glared at me with a mean look, and I was frightened and didn’t know what to do. The crowd came toward me.”

None of the nine attended school that day. Each were rounded up and driven off.

A team of NAACP lawyers, including Thurgood Marshall, objected in court to Governor Faber’s resistance, and the courts favored the students, but each of the nine refused to return.

On Monday, September 23, President Dwight D. Eisenhower dispatched 100 paratroopers from the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, to enforce desegregation, and on September 25, the nine attended classes for the first time, but not without continual name-calling and violence.

Governor Fabus declared, “This is military occupation,” dredging up bitter memories of the Reconstruction years, 1865-1877, when the North’s Union army oversaw local and state politics. Many across the Southern states cried out, “This is a violation of our State’s Rights!”

Of the nine, one graduated from Little Rock’s high school, Ernest Green, on May 25, 1958, the first African American to graduate from Central High.

Those nine broke the racial barrier. America’s destiny now incorporated desegregation.