Sunday, September 25, 2011

Integration of Central High School at Little Rock

“Helped Mr. Cary thrash until 3 o’clock and then cut two rows of shocks of corn before night.”

Members of the 101st US-Airborne Division escorting the Little Rock Nine to school
Built in 1927 at a cost of $1.5 million, Little Rock Senior High School, later to be renamed Little Rock Central High, was hailed as the most expensive, most beautiful, and largest high school in the nation. Its opening earned national publicity with nearly 20,000 people attending the dedication ceremony. Historic events in the 1950s changed education at Central High School and throughout the United States.
LRCHS was the focal point of the Little Rock Integration Crisis of 1957. Nine African-American students, known as the Little Rock Nine, were denied entrance to the school in defiance of the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling ordering integration of public schools. This provoked a showdown between the Governor Orval Faubus and President Dwight D. Eisenhower that gained international attention.
On the morning of September 23, 1957, the nine African-American high school students faced an angry mob of over 1,000 White Americans protesting integration in front of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. As the students were escorted inside by the Little Rock police, violence escalated and they were removed from the school. The next day, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the 1,200-man 101st Airborne Battle Group of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to escort the nine students into the school. By the same order, the entire 10,000 man Arkansas National Guard was federalized, to remove them from the control of Governor Faubus. At nearby Camp Robinson, a hastily organized Task Force 153rd Infantry drew guardsmen from units all over the state. Most of the Arkansas Guard was quickly demobilized, but the ad hoc TF153Inf assumed control at Thanksgiving when the 327th withdrew, and patrolled inside and outside the school for the remainder of the school year. As Melba Pattillo Beals, one of the nine students, remembered, and quoted in her book, "After three full days inside Central [High School], I know that integration is a much bigger word than I thought."
This event, watched by the nation and world, was the site of the first important test for the implementation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954. Arkansas became the epitome of state resistance when the governor, Orval Faubus, directly questioned the authority of the federal court system and the validity of desegregation. The crisis at Little Rock's Central High School was the first fundamental test of the national resolve to enforce black civil rights in the face of massive resistance during the years following the Brown decision. As to whether Eisenhower's specific actions to enforce integration violated the Posse Comitatus Act, the Supreme Court, in Cooper v. Aaron (1958), indirectly affirmed the legality of his conduct, which was never, though, expressly reviewed.
In 1958, a US Federal Court judge suspended operation of the federal integration order until the 1960-61 school term. Judge Hemley said integration had "broken down under the pressure of public opinion". The school board said it had faced large fees it could not afford for hiring security guards to keep the peace in school.
Leesah

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