Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus calls on the National Guard to prevent nine African-American students from entering Central High School in Little Rock. Armed Arkansas militia troops surrounded the school as an angry mob of about 400 whites mocked, booed and threatened to lynch the frightened African-American teens, who fled shortly after their arrival. Faubus acted in violation of a federal school integration order. The conflict set the stage for the first major test of the United States Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in 1954 Brown v Topeka Board of Education that racial segregation in educational institutions is unconstitutional.
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The landmark decision, which ended federal tolerance for racial segregation, specifically concerned Linda Brown, an African-American girl who had been refused admission to her local elementary school in Topeka, Kansas, due to the color of his skin.
In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled in Plessy vs. Ferguson that “separate but equal” accommodations in railroad cars complied with the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection. This decision was used to justify the segregation of all public institutions, including elementary schools. However, in Linda Brown’s case, the white school she attempted to attend was far superior to her black alternative and miles closer to home. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) took up Linda’s cause, and in 1954 Brown v Topeka Board of Education reached the Supreme Court. African-American lawyer (and future Supreme Court justice) Thurgood Marshall headed Brown’s legal team, and on May 17, 1954, the High Court delivered its decision.
In an opinion written by Chief Justice Earl Warren, the nation’s highest court ruled that not only was the “separate but equal” doctrine unconstitutional in Linda’s case, but it was unconstitutional in all cases because school segregation marked an inherent badge of inferiority on African American students. . A year later, after hearing arguments about the implementation of their ruling, the Supreme Court issued guidelines requiring public school systems to integrate “at deliberate speed.”
In 1957, the first major confrontation over this decision came when African-American students attempted to integrate Central High School in Little Rock. After Governor Faubus surrounded the school with Arkansas National Guard troops, a confrontation with federal officials ensued. On September 24, President Dwight Eisenhower sent 1,000 American troops to Little Rock. The next day, the African-American students entered heavily armed guard. The episode served as a catalyst for the integration of other separate schools in the United States.
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