As the world watched, nine African American students were escorted into the formerly all-white Little Rock Central High School by members of the 101st Airborne on September 25, 1957, and remained in the school. This was the culmination of not only three weeks of tumult in Little Rock, but of several years of legal battles.
In reality, the Little Rock Nine (Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Gloria Ray, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Patillo, Terrence Roberts, Jefferson Thomas, and Carlotta Walls) were the fulfillment of efforts for equal rights which dated back for decades and centuries.
Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus called out the National Guard to keep the Little Rock Nine out of the school, though he claimed it was to maintain peace. Eventually, President Dwight Eisenhower had to federalize the National Guard and removed them. He replaced them with the 101st Airborne who escorted the students in.
The story did not end on September 25. The Little Rock Nine endured much hostility during the 1957-1958 school year. Even after that school year was over, the drama continued as the high schools were closed during 1958-1959 in an effort to keep them segregated. Once the schools reopened, there were still efforts to delay the full integration of Little Rock schools.
Likewise, there was an immense amount of effort leading up to the Little Rock Nine entering into the school. Work by the NAACP both nationally and within Arkansas laid the groundwork for that day.
During September 2017, there will be a series of events that will look back at the events of September 1957. They will also examine the work that led up to the integration of Little Rock Central High. In addition, the programs will look at the impact of the 1957-1958 school year over the past six decades.