February is Black History Month! Today, we remember the landmark educational legislation that changed the course and composition of American schools. In 1954, the Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education called for an end to segregation in U.S. institutions of learning. However, implementation of the law varied by geographic location across the country, and continues to be an issue even today.
Central High School; Little Rock, Arkansas, 1957
The 1957 integration events at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, are some of the most well known of the Civil Rights era. Following the 1954 Brown vs. Board decision, the Little Rock School Board agreed to proceed with desegregation of local schools, beginning with Central High School. In September 1957, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus called in the Arkansas National Guard; ostensibly to maintain peace and order. After the Arkansas Guardsmen prevented black students from entering the school, President Eisenhower got involved, sending 1000 members of the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock. Nine African-American students attended Central High School that year, including Minnijean Brown, who was famously suspended after dumping a bowl of chili on the heads of white bullies. Ernest Green became the first black student to graduate from Central High School in 1958. Little Rock schools were not fully integrated across grade levels until 1972.
Read more about integration at Central High School:
Little Rock Integration Timeline
From the Central High 40th Anniversary Web site
Choices in Little Rock
From “Facing History and Ourselves,” this teaching unit challenges students to consider Central High school integration in the context of civic choices today.