Little Rock

In September 1957 nine black students enrolled in Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. It appeared that desegregation would proceed smoothly at first. Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus was known for his moderate position on race, but he decided that to gain reelection he needed to defend segregation vigorously. Faubus called out the Arkansas National Guard and ordered them to prevent the nine children from entering Central High School. A federal court order required Faubus to withdraw the Guard, but when the Little Rock Nine, as the students came to be called, arrived for school a hysterical mob hurled insults at them and threatened to break into outright violence. To resolve the crisis, President Eisenhower ordered 1,000 paratroopers to Little Rock to protect the students and allow the federal court orders to proceed without violence. The soldiers stayed in Little Rock for the remainder of the year. But in 1958 the Little Rock school board tried to prevent integration from going forward another year, and Faubus closed the high schools of Little Rock. In 1959 federal court decisions required Little Rock to comply with the Brown decision and admit black students to Central High School. In 1957 and 1958 massive resistance in Arkansas and Virginia was at a high tide. Governors Almond and Faubus were linked in the minds of conservative white southerners as the defenders of the status quo in the region.