On This Day in 1957

Central High School integrated

Little Rock integration protest.

Library of Congress

Little Rock integration protest.

Today, 60 years ago, the Little Rock Nine entered a newly desegregated high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. Just five days before, Supreme Court case Brown vs Board of Education was passed and it ruled that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional.

In 1957, there were 517 African American children zoned to Central High School, but only nine attended the all-white school after the ruling. The decision was controversial at the time and required an escort by the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division and the Arkansas National Guard and 1,000 army paratroopers to enforce the court order.

Four hundred white civilians gathered to protest the integration of the school, but the nine students were able to enter the school under a heavy escort. The guard remained at the school the entire year, attempting to protect them from any angry mobs. Despite any protection from the army, they still faced physical harassment and crude racist remarks from students at the school.

Although they faced hardships and feared for their safety, the bravery of the Little Rock Nine led to the integration of more schools and increased acceptance of mixed schools. In 1957, seven out of Arkansas’ eight state universities were eventually integrated and in 1972, all grades in Little Rock were fully integrated.