Little Rock Nine …History ~ 18 days


 September ~ 4th through the 25th ~ Segregation

Little Rock Nine, group of African American high-school students who challenged racial segregation in the public schools of Little Rock, Arkansas. The group—consisting of Melba Pattillo, Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, Minnijean Brown, Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls, Jefferson Thomas, Gloria Ray, and Thelma Mothershed—became the centre of the struggle to desegregate public schools in the United States, especially in the South. The events that followed their enrollment in Little Rock Central High School provoked intense national debate about racial segregation and civil rights.

During the summer of 1957, the Litte Rock Nine enrolled at Little Rock Central High School, which until then had been all white. The students’ effort to enroll was supported by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which had declared segregated schooling to be unconstitutional.

Warned by the Little Rock board of education not to attend the first day of school, the nine African American students arrived on the second day accompanied by a small interracial group of ministers. They encountered a large white mob in front of the school, who began shouting, throwing stones, and threatening to kill the students. In addition, about 270 soldiers of the Arkansas National Guard, sent by Arkansas Gov. Orval Eugene Faubus, blocked the school’s entrance. Faubus had declared his opposition to integration and his intention to defy a federal court order requiring desegregation.

The confrontation in Little Rock drew international attention to racism and civil rights in the United States as well as to the battle between federal and state power. Television and newspaper reporters devoted substantial coverage to the “Little Rock Nine,” as the African American students were called.

Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Governor Faubus, and Little Rock’s mayor, Woodrow Mann, discussed the situation over the course of 18 days, during which time the nine students stayed home. The students returned to the high school on September 23, entering through a side door to avoid the protesters’ attention and wrath.

They were eventually discovered, however, and white protesters became violent, attacking African American bystanders as well as reporters for northern newspapers. The students were sent home, but they returned on September 25, protected by U.S. soldiers. Despite Eisenhower’s publicly stated reluctance to use federal troops to enforce desegregation, he recognized the potential for violence and state insubordination. He thus sent the elite 101st Airborne Division, called the “Screaming Eagles,” to Little Rock and placed the Arkansas National Guard under federal command.

The Little Rock Nine continued to face physical and verbal attacks from white students throughout their studies at Central High. One of the students, Minnijean Brown, fought back and was expelled. The remaining eight students, however, attended the school for the rest of the academic year. At the end of the year, in 1958, senior Ernest Green became the first African American to graduate from Little Rock Central High School.

Governor Faubus was reelected in 1958, and rather than permit desegregation, he closed all of Little Rock’s schools. Many school districts in the South followed Little Rock’s example, closing schools or implementing “school-choice” programs that subsidized white students’ attendance at private segregated academies, which were not covered by the Supreme Court’s decision. Little Rock Central High School did not reopen with a desegregated student body until 1960, and efforts to integrate schools and other public areas throughout the country continued through the 1960s.

Gerald D. Jaynes

1957 Central High School integrated – September 4, 23- 25,1957


Under escort from the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, nine black students enter all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Three weeks earlier, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus had surrounded the school with National Guard troops to prevent its federal court-ordered racial integration. After a tense standoff, President Dwight D. Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard and sent 1,000 army paratroopers to Little Rock to enforce the court order.

On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that racial segregation in educational facilities was unconstitutional. Five days later, the Little Rock School Board issued a statement saying it would comply with the decision when the Supreme Court outlined the method and time frame in which desegregation should be implemented.Whites harass Elizabeth Eckford, one of nine African-American students attempting to attend Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., on Sept. 4, 1957. The governor sent National Guard troops in to keep the nine out.

Arkansas was at the time among the more progressive Southern states in regard to racial issues. The University of Arkansas School of Law was integrated in 1949, and the Little Rock Public Library in 1951. Even before the Supreme Court ordered integration to proceed “with all deliberate speed,” the Little Rock School Board in 1955 unanimously adopted a plan of integration to begin in 1957 at the high school level. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) filed suit, arguing the plan was too gradual, but a federal judge dismissed the suit, saying that the school board was acting in “utmost good faith.” Meanwhile, Little Rock’s public buses were desegregated. By 1957, seven out of Arkansas’ eight state universities were integrated.

In the spring of 1957, there were 517 black students who lived in the Central High School district. Eighty expressed an interest in attending Central in the fall, and they were interviewed by the Little Rock School Board, which narrowed down the number of candidates to 17. Eight of those students later decided to remain at all-black Horace Mann High School, leaving the “Little Rock Nine” to forge their way into Little Rock’s premier high school.

In August 1957, the newly formed Mother’s League of Central High School won a temporary injunction from the county chancellor to block integration of the school, charging that it “could lead to violence.” Federal District Judge Ronald Davies nullified the injunction on August 30. On September 2, Governor Orval Faubus—a staunch segregationist—called out the Arkansas National Guard to surround Central High School and prevent integration, ostensibly to prevent the bloodshed he claimed desegregation would cause. The next day, Judge Davies ordered integrated classes to begin on September 4. 

September 4, 1957: Arkansas troops block “Little Rock Nine” from segregated high school

That morning, 100 armed National Guard troops encircled Central High School. A mob of 400 white civilians gathered and turned ugly when the black students began to arrive, shouting racial epithets and threatening the teenagers with violence. The National Guard troops refused to let the black students pass and used their clubs to control the crowd. One of the nine, 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford, was surrounded by the mob, which threatened to lynch her. She was finally led to safety by a sympathetic white woman.

Little Rock Mayor Woodrow Mann condemned Faubus’ decision to call out the National Guard, but the governor defended his action, reiterating that he did so to prevent violence. The governor also stated that integration would occur in Little Rock when and if a majority of people chose to support it. Faubus’ defiance of Judge Davies’ court order was the first major test of Brown v. Board of Educationand the biggest challenge of the federal government’s authority over the states since the Reconstruction Era.

The standoff continued, and on September 20 Judge Davies ruled that Faubus had used the troops to prevent integration, not to preserve law and order as he claimed. Faubus had no choice but to withdraw the National Guard troops. Authority over the explosive situation was put in the hands of the Little Rock Police Department.

On September 23, as a mob of 1,000 whites milled around outside Central High School, the nine black students managed to gain access to a side door.

However, the mob became unruly when it learned the black students were inside, and the police evacuated them out of fear for their safety. That evening, President Eisenhower issued a special proclamation calling for opponents of the federal court order to “cease and desist.” On September 24, Little Rock’s mayor sent a telegram to the president asking him to send troops to maintain order and complete the integration process. Eisenhower immediately federalized the Arkansas National Guard and approved the deployment of U.S. troops to Little Rock. That evening, from the White House, the president delivered a nationally televised address in which he explained that he had taken the action to defend the rule of law and prevent “mob rule” and “anarchy.”

On September 25, the Little Rock Nine entered the school under heavily armed guard.

Troops remained at Central High School throughout the school year, but still the black students were subjected to verbal and physical assaults from a faction of white students. Melba Patillo, one of the nine, had acid thrown in her eyes, and Elizabeth Eckford was pushed down a flight of stairs. The three male students in the group were subjected to more conventional beatings. Minnijean Brown was suspended after dumping a bowl of chili over the head of a taunting white student. She was later suspended for the rest of the year after continuing to fight back. The other eight students consistently turned the other cheek. On May 27, 1958, Ernest Green, the only senior in the group, became the first black to graduate from Central High School.

Governor Faubus continued to fight the school board’s integration plan, and in September 1958 he ordered Little Rock’s three high schools closed rather than permit integration. Many Little Rock students lost a year of education as the legal fight over desegregation continued. In 1959, a federal court struck down Faubus’ school-closing law, and in August 1959 Little Rock’s white high schools opened a month early with black students in attendance.

All grades in Little Rock public schools were finally integrated in 1972

OFCCP Anniversary Celebration … 9/25 in memory of EO 11246


President Lyndon B. Johnson and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Register for OFCCP’s 50th Anniversary Celebration held on Friday, September 25, 2015.

September 24, 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Executive Order 11246 and the establishment of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.

Learn more about the history of OFCCP and stay informed about planned celebratory activities across the country in honor of this significant milestone.

In a June 1965 commencement address at Washington, DC’s Howard University, President Lyndon Johnson shared his strong belief in civil rights and nondiscriminatory practices when he said: “Thus it is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates. This is the next and the more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity. We seek not just legal equity but human ability, not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and equality as a result.”

On September 24, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed Executive Order 11246, granting supervision of federal contract compliance to the Secretary of Labor, and  creating the department’s first Office of Federal Contract Compliance. The EO ordered federal departments and agencies to impose non–discrimination and affirmative action rules in all federal contracts and federally–assisted construction projects. Later, on October 5, 1978, President Jimmy Carter consolidated all affirmative action enforcement actions into DOL by signing into law Executive Order 12086.

History of Executive Order 11246