Brown v Board of Education, the landmark 1954 supreme court ruling that segregated schools were unconstitutional, should have meant she and fellow pupils could take their places at Central High. But Governor Orval Faubus of Arkansas, in the deep south, remained defiant and used the national guard to block their enrollment. The African American children were left in limbo for three weeks.
On the first day of term, the national guard were there to stop the nine entering Central High, where all 1,900 attendees were white.
…On 23 September 1957, the group did get into the building with police protection. But an angry mob of more than a thousand white people had gathered in front of the school, chanting racist abuse such as “Go back to Africa.”
The mob started a riot and police decided to remove the students for their own safety. “At about 10am they said: ‘You’ve got to come down to the office,’ and we went down into the basement. They put us in these cars and the cops driving the cars were shaking. They had the guns and sticks and they were scared. ‘Oh wow, this is scary.’ Some of us were told to keep our heads down
……President Dwight Eisenhower sent in 1,200 paratroopers from the 101st airborne division.
…On 25 September, the group braved a hostile white crowd, climbed the school steps and were escorted to class by US army troops. …The soldiers escorted the students single file into the school for their first full day of classes and dispersed the demonstrators.
…But although 25 September is the date people remember, troops remained at Central high school for the rest the school year and the Little Rock Nine ran the gauntlet of hatred every day. They were taunted, assaulted and spat upon by their white counterparts; a straw effigy of a black person was hung from a tree. They were kept apart in different classes so they could not vouch for each other’s claims.
Only sixty years ago!