Why Eisenhower Sent the 101st Airborne to Little Rock After Brown v. Board

Why Eisenhower Sent the 101st Airborne to Little Rock After Brown v. Board

When the Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that separate schools for whites and blacks were unconstitutional and inherently unequal, the slow and often violent dismantling of segregation in educational institutions began across the country.

Knowing that there would be a challenge and resistance to the Brown v. school council decision, particularly in the south where Jim Crow prevailed, the Supreme Court refrained from setting a specific deadline for schools to begin the desegregation process.

But in 1955, in a later decision dealing with late progress by states, the court demanded that integration be “at any deliberate speed”. The Little Rock, Arkansas school board voted to desegregate their high schools starting in 1957, which led to a crisis that catapulted the state governor into a confrontation with the president of the United States, Dwight D Eisenhower.

By 1957, Arkansas had already integrated several state universities and smaller school districts. But when nine black students decided to attend the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, which was breaking up a large urban area, threats of violence and protests followed.

Little Rock Nine Face Hostile Crowds

READ MORE: The story behind the Little Rock Nine ‘Scream Image’

A few days before the start of the school year, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, a segregationist, announced on September 2, 1957 that he would order the State National Guard to surround Central to prevent black students to enter, under the pretext of protecting them from the violence of the crowd. In response, federal judge Ronald Davies issued a decision the next day, requiring that the integrated courses be conducted in accordance with court orders.

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