Six Times ‘They’ Tried It with the Little Rock Nine

The Little Rock Nine were nine African-Americans who led the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. In 1957, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus defied a federal court order to desegregate schools, and called upon the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the students from entering. Confronted with angry mobs of segregationist protesters, racial epithets, and even violence, the students’ entry was initially prevented by the Arkansas National Guard. After many attempts, the students finally entered but military presence remained for the duration of the school year.

 

Think you have what it takes to be part of the Little Rock Nine? See if you could have accomplished such a historic feat.

 

Would you have risked your life for racial equality?

A tormentor threw a rock, shattering the window of the home belonging to Daisy and L.C. Bates. Daisy, known was the “poster child of Black resistance” helped organize the Little Rock Nine. A note was tied to the rock that read: “Stone this time. Dynamite next.” [1]

 

What if someone spit in your face…

Elizabeth Eckford, just 15 at the time, recalled her experience: “I tried to see a friendly face somewhere in the mob – someone who maybe would help. I looked into the face of an old woman and it seemed a kind face, but when I looked at her again, she spat on me.” [2]

 

…and you didn’t even have a cell phone?

Only eight of the Little Rock Nine carpooled to school together that day – leaving Eckford to arrive (and face the angry mobs) alone.  Eckford’s family didn’t have a telephone and Daisy Bates, the organizer, could not reach her to inform her of the carpool.

 

Would you have even been selected? Those chosen to integrate Little Rock’s most prestigious public high school were not picked at random.

After several years of careful planning, the school board superintendent hand-picked nine African American applicants after a lengthy process. School officials created a review system that required a series of rigorous interviews to determine whether they were suited for admission into the all-white high school. [3]

 

Would you have kept your composure once inside the school?

Minnijean Brown had had enough. Taunted by white male students, she dumped a bowl of chili onto her antagonists. After additional altercations and a short-term suspension, Brown was eventually suspended for the remainder of the school year and ultimately transferred to a high school in New York City.

 

What if MLK attended your graduation but no one would even sit next to you?

In May 1958, the integrated school year came to an end. Ernest Green sat at his high school graduation with a class of 600 – yet he was completely alone. No other graduate would sit near him. However, both his family and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. applauded for him from the stands. [4]

 

These instances merely scrape the surface of what the Little Rock Nine endured for the freedoms we celebrate today. Want to know more and really experience what it was like? Check out our “Day in the Life” interactive challenge featuring the Little Rock Nine, here.

 

Sources:

[1] http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14563865

[2] http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=723

[3] http://www.blackpast.org/aah/little-rock-crisis-1957

[4]  http://www.tolerance.org/article/little-rock-revisited-40th-anniversary-integration-central-h