Thursday, September 24, 2015
On September 24, 1957 the national spotlight was focused on Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, at the urging of his Attorney General Herbert Brownell and Martin Luther King Jr., ordered 1,200 members of the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock. Their mission was to enforce a federal court order ensuring that nine African American high school students safely entered their new school and attended class.
In Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the U.S. Supreme Court had unanimously ruled that racially segregated schools were inherently unequal and therefore unconstitutional. The Court called for desegregation of all schools in the country. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) immediately began working with southern school districts to register African American students in “all white” schools. However, when nine academically-gifted black students– Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, Jefferson Thomas, Terrence Roberts, Carolla Walls LaNier, Minnijean Brown, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Thelma Mothershed, and Melba Pattillo Beals– arrived at Central High in early September 1957, an angry mob of citizens and the Arkansas National Guard stopped them from entering the building.
NAACP attorneys, including Thurgood Marshall, went to federal court and obtained an injunction to prevent Governor Orval Faubus from blocking the students’ entry. On September 23, the nine teens did enter the building, but were taken home early as angry crowds and the fear of violence intensified. The following day the federal troops secured the site, escorted the teens into the building, and a new era in education began.
There is a local connection to this 365 Story. Troy resident Ward Randol is a member of the Troy Historical Society’s Board of Trustees and a proud nephew of Herbert Brownell.
Federal Troops escort the Arkansas Nine into Central High School
Interviews with Ward Randol
To commemorate the City of Troy’s 60th Anniversary in 2015, we will publish a different story each day that highlights a person, discovery, or event that occurred locally, regionally, nationally, or even globally between 1955 and 2015 and that helped shape our lives and our community. We will try to post stories on important anniversary dates, but we also realize that dates are less critical than content and context. We will include the facts related to controversial stories, allowing our readers to form their own opinions. We invite you to read and comment on the stories. Your suggestions for topics are also welcome and can be posted on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/TroyHistoricVillage. You can also email stories or ideas to the 365 Story Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.