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Lessons From The "Little Rock Nine"

1483 words - 6 pages

Motivators and movers – where would the world be without these people? It is these beings that cause belief to become action and compel the masses to move through their example, sometimes unknowingly. In 1957, nine young African-Americans voluntarily chose to desegregate Little Rock Central High and break free of the black-white mold that society had made. Those young students became known as the Little Rock Nine - hated by those unlike them, terrorized by schoolmates and even ostracized by their people. The moment these young African-Americans enrolled into Central High, they became warriors for equality facing the battlefield of racism. It was their determination that facilitated breaking ...view middle of the document...

com). The citizens of Little Rock were outraged that Negroes would soon be mingling with their children. The day the court order was passed, Melba Patillo Beals was assaulted and nearly raped by a adult white male who was so infuriated by the Supreme Court’s decision (Beals, 1995). Acts of violence and hostility became more frequent towards the Nine. Five days later the Little Rock school board stated that they would integrate Central High, but not until September 1957. Originally 17 students had planned to integrate Central High, but due to threats of violence eight students backed down, adding additional anxiety to the remaining Nine. With the help of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, plans for integrating Central High were becoming reality.
On September 4, Little Rock awoke to the Arkansas Democrat headline which read, “Armed Troops Turn Back Nine Negroes at Central High School” ("Armed troops turn," 1957). The front page was spotted with images of the blockade of troops with “Crowd Jeers at as Negro Students Attempt to Enter Central High” as the caption. The first attempt at integration had caused an eruption of absolute turmoil in front of Little Rock Central High. Governor Orval Faubus had commissioned the Arkansas National Guard and State Police to surround the high school, claiming that they were needed to keep the peace; however, peace was not a word that would accurately describe the occurrences that happened outside the school. Just as the papers read, a large mob of angry spectator gathered in front of Central High protesting the entrance of the nine black students. In Beal’s experience, which is described in her book Warriors Don’t Cry, she and her mother encountered the mob and could get nowhere near school. They were chased by segregationists on foot for about a block, before they could make their escape by way of vehicle.
One of the most famous photographs taken that day is of Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Nine, walking amidst the mob. In the photo, Elizabeth has her back turned to the crowd and appears to be walking straight ahead, with a notebook or folder tucked within her arm. Close behind her is a line of white women wearing impassionate facial expressions of rage (CBS News Staff, 1957). One woman has her mouth opened, and is most likely yelling unpleasant words at Eckford. Another is captured beside and appears to be moving closer to Eckford, and by the looks of her body language, has the intent to physically harm her. All the chaos and turmoil is captured in the backround of the photograph, with soldiers standing by and the rest of the mob moving in. Beals describes one photograph of Eckford, although not for certain this one, that it pained her side to see “the twister, scowling white faces with open mouths jeering, clustered above my friend’s head like a bouquet of grotesque flowers”(Beals). Eckford recalls, “They moved closer and closer ... Somebody started yelling ... I tried to see a...

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