1957 September 4

African-American Students Blocked From Entering Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas


On this day, Arkansas National Guard troops prevented nine African-American students from entering Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. The school integration crisis in Little Rock was one of the major civil rights events of the 1950s. After a legal stand-off of almost three weeks, on September 23, 1957, the nine students — who became famous at “The Little Rock Nine” — were again denied entry by a mob of segregationists outside the school. Two days later, on September 25, 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower mobilized federal troops to escort the students into the school and preserve order.

The battle over the integration of the Little Rock schools continued. In the summer of 1958 the school officials again tried to block integration. They were overruled by the Supreme Court in the landmark case of Cooper v. Aaron (September 12, 1958), which asserted the supremacy of the federal courts as the law of the land. Nonetheless, the Little Rock school board voted to close the schools altogether rather than integrate (see May 25, 1959). The 1958–1959 academic year is known as the “lost year.” Moderate members of the community captured control of the schools, however, and the schools reopened in the fall of 1959.

On September 27, 1997, President Bill Clinton, who was a young boy in Arkansas at the time of the integration crisis, held a ceremony in Little Rock marking the 40th anniversary of the crisis and honoring the Little Rock Nine.

Learn more at a timeline of the Little Rock crisis: http://www.nps.gov/chsc/historyculture/timeline.htm

Watch a documentary on the Little Rock crisis: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xERXusiEszs

Read the book by Daisy Bates, Little Rock’s integration leader: Daisy Bates, The Long Shadow of Little Rock: A Memoir (1962)

Learn more: Karen Anderson, Race and Resistance at Central High School (2010)

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