The Little Rock High School incident, 1957

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Key events

  • 1957
    • September 3rd – Orval Faubus, governor of Arkansas, announced on television that he had ordered the state troops to stop the students entering the school for their own protection.
    • September 4th – 1st day of the new academic year and 9 students (from an original 25, all of whom had been threatened) arrived at Little Rock High School as did many white protesters from other parts of the state and beyond. The State Troopers prevented the students from entering the school and events were photographed and publicised across the USA and the wider world. These events were repeated as the Little Rock 9 tried to exercise their right to enter the school
    • September 12th – President Eisenhower (who had just signed the 1957 Civil Rights Act) met with Governor Faubus to try to persuade him to let the students go to school
    • September 23rd – following Federal court proceedings against Orval Faubus, police were deployed to accompany the students to school but were met with a riot, which was broadcast to the outside world.
    • September 24th – Eisenhower signed a presidential order that sent 1.200 Federal troops to Little Rock and put them in charge of the local state troops.
      This was the first time since the Civil War that a president had sent troops into the South
    • September 24th – Eisenhower made a televised address to the nation in which he said that ‘Mob rule cannot be allowed to override the decision of our courts… At a time when we face grave situations abroad because of the hatred that Communism bears towards a system of government based on human rights, it would be difficult to exaggerate the harm that is begin done… Our enemies are gloating over this incident… We are potrayed as a violator of those standards which the people of the world united to proclaim in the Charter of the United Nations.’
    • September 25th – 3 weeks after term had started, the Little Rock Nine were finally able to go to classes. For the next year they would be protected by the army, but they and their family continued to experience harassment and violence
  • 1958
    • Orval Faubus closed all high schools in Little Rock whilst the state court fought the Supreme Court over de-segregation
    • A public vote confirmed that 72% of Little Rock’s citizens were against integrating the schools
  • 1959
    • August – The Supreme Court ordered Little Rock schools to re-open; but Little Rock schools were not full integrated until the 1970s; black students who attempted to integrate would often find themselves subject to racially-motivated bullying that adversely affected their education

Taylor, pp. 36-38.

Eyes on the Prize, part 2: Fighting Back – 1957-62


  1. Create a diagram or table showing the successes and failure sof the civil rights campaigns on education in the 1950s
  2. President Eisenhower believedthat changing the law to enforce integration would do more harm than good. Did events at Little Rock prove he was right?
  3. Explain two effects of the events at Little Rock in Setpember 1957 on the USA [8 marks]

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