24 September 2017

Sixty years ago

It was September 1957, the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, and nine black pupils little guessed they were about to plant a milestone in the struggle for civil rights...

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. Three weeks later, on 25 September, the group braved a hostile white crowd, climbed the school steps and were escorted to class by US army troops. They became known and revered as the Little Rock Nine... 

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”. “I really think that we were afraid to look at the mob; at least I was,” says Trickey. “So we just heard it and it was like a sports event, that sound, the roar, but it was a roar of hatred, and just thinking about it makes me shake.”...

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...

The crisis was cause for Washington to intervene. President Dwight Eisenhower sent in 1,200 paratroopers from the 101st airborne division. The soldiers escorted the students single file into the school for their first full day of classes and dispersed the demonstrators. The US’s racial shame had been exposed, shown on TV and reported in newspapers around the world. 
More at The Guardian


  1. States' rights vs federalism, in a nutshell.

  2. If a state has the right to exclude children of color from integrated public schools, then it does not belong in the United States.

  3. Those children were so brave. I know their knees were probably weak and their hearts were racing --- you would have thought that they could have had their parents by their side, but the crowd might have attacked black adults, so maybe it was better that way, but those kids must have been so scared and traumatized by all of it...

  4. I have wondered about the evolution of thought of the white people shown. Did they eventually grow shameful? If so, what brought that about? Or did they hold on to their hateful views? If those folks can change, perhaps there is hope yet.

    1. What's always missing from a story like this is the history of the Democrat Party, the creators and enforcers of segregation and Jim Crow Laws. Have they changed? I believe they have, but they've also gotten better at hiding it.

    2. The shrieking harridan in the center background eventually grew a brain, and she and Elizabeth Eckford evidently became friends: https://www.history.com/news/the-story-behind-the-famous-little-rock-nine-scream-image


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