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The Little Rock Nine

The Little Rock Nine were a group pf African-American students who enrolled in the Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The ensuing Little Rock Crisis, in which the students were initially prevented from entering the racially segregated school by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, and then attended after the intervention of President Dwight Eisenhower, was an important event in the African-American Civil Rights Movement.

Several segregationist “citizens” councils” threatened to hold protests at Central High and physically block and black students from entering the school. In response, Governor Orval Faubus deployed the Arkansas National Guard to support the segregationists on September 4, 1957. The sight of a line of soldiers blocking nine Black students from attending high school made national headlines and polarized the city. On September 9th, “The Council of Church Women” issued a statement condemning the governor’s deployment of soldiers to the high school and called for a citywide prayer service on September 12th. Even President Dwight Eisenhower attempted to de-escalate the situation and summoned Governor Faubus to meet him, warning the Governor not to interfere with the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The citizens” council continued to protest and pressured the Little Rock School Board into reversing its decision to desegregate the public schools. In August 1958, with support from Governor Faubus and the Arkansas State Legislature, the school board canceled the entire 1958-59 school year for its three high schools rather than integrate them. Thousands of high school students left the city to attend high schools in other school districts, or enrolled in all-white private schools. One year later, additional federal court rulings and the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce pressured the school board into reopening the school system. By the fall of 1959, Little Rock public schools had reopened as an integrated school system.