The Little Rock Nine is the common term applied to the nine African-American students who were prevented from attending Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas during 1957.
The integration crisis was a major event during the American Civil Rights Movement. Earlier in 1957, the Little Rock school board had voted to integrate their school system. It was not expected to meet too much resistance since Arkansas was considered a fairly progressive southern state. A crisis erupted when Governor of Arkansas Orval Faubus called out the National Guard on September 4 to prevent the Little Rock Nine from attending highschool. His decision was most likely politically, rather then racially, motivated. In 1956 Faubus indicated that he would investigate bringing Arkansas into compliance with the Brown decision. However, this idea had significant opposition from the more conservative wing of the Arkansas Democratic Party, which controlled politics in that state at the time. If Faubus showed support for integration he would lose support from that wing of the party and would likely have been defeated in the upcoming primary in 1958. Thus, Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to block the students from entering the school.
This act was in defiance of Federal court orders and the US Supreme Court's ruling in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) that called for the racial desegregation of public schools. Faubus's order set him on a collision course with President Dwight D. Eisenhower who was determined to enforce the orders of the Federal courts. Eisenhower federalized the National Guard and ordered them to return to their barracks. Eisenhower then deployed elements of the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock to protect the students. Eisenhower's actions were considered, by many southerners, to be a second invasion by Federal troops. This feeling would manifest itself many times, such as the intervention of the US Marshals to ensure that the University of Mississippi would allow African-American student James Meredith to integrate that institution in 1961. The result was mob violence not only against the students, but also against "invaders."
Little Rock Central High School still functions as part of the Little Rock School District and now houses a Civil Rights Museum to commemorate the events of 1957.
The students referred to as the Little Rock Nine were:
- Ernest Green
- Elizabeth Eckford
- Jefferson Thomas
- Terrence Roberts
- Carlotta Walls Lanier
- Minnijean Brown Trickey
- Gloria Ray Karlmark
- Thelma Mothershed-Wair
- Melba Pattillo Beals
During their ordeal the Little Rock Nine were advised by Little Rock journalist and activist Daisy Bates.
See also Elizabeth Eckford's recollections.