On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that segregation in the public schools of the nation was unconstitutional. One of the first big tests of that decision came in Little Rock, Arkansas. Nine Black children attempted to enroll in the all-white Central High School. They would become known as the "Little Rock Nine.” Several segregationist councils threatened to hold protests at Central High and physically block the black students from entering the school. Governor Orval Faubus deployed the Arkansas National Guard to support the segregationists on September 4, 1957. The sight of a line of soldiers blocking out the students made national headlines and polarized the nation. On September 24, President Eisenhower ordered the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army—without its black soldiers—to Little Rock and federalized the entire 10,000-member Arkansas National Guard.
As much as it was a momentous occasion in American history, that had ramifications far and wide forever to come, it’s easy to forget that these nine children had to walk into a building full of people that thought their very existence was going to destroy their version of America. It’s easy to forget that the crisis didn’t end with them walking through the doors. These are their stories, in their own words.