The issue of desegregation was evident after Brown v. Board of Education (1954) dismantled the principle of “separate but equal.” No longer was there constitutional approval to a system of segregation associated with services, facilities, and public accommodations. After Brown v. Board of Education public school systems, once segregated, were federally mandated to integrate. This page shows the different views and opinions of the integration of blacks into public schools. Specifically focusing on the Little Rock Nine, this page discusses the white and black perspectives of events during the Civil Rights movement that forever changed our nation’s history.
Massive Resistance (Southern Manifesto)
After Brown v. Board of Education, white politicians realized they would soon have to integrate public schools and share the freedom of education. Southern governors and congressmen adopted a plan known as Southern Manifesto. This plan was an attempt to denounce the decision in Brown v. Board of Education and encourage southern states to resist it. State governments would show support for Southern Manifesto by denying African Americans the right to an equal education and by keeping schools segregated. One of Georgia’s senators, Walter F. George, justified Southern Manifesto by condemning the Supreme Court’s decision as a “clear abuse of judicial power” and said that states would use all lawful means of stopping integration. The most influential southern senator, Georgian Richard Russell, recognized the fact that five southern states planned on obeying the court’s decision, but stated “if the South could obtain a unity of action” then the North would be forced to reconsider imposing desegregation.” Among the states that did not support Southern Manifesto were Florida, Texas, and Tennessee. The three state governments justified their position by stating, “The negro is a child of god.” Texas Senator Lyndon B. Johnson refused to sign Southern Manifesto in order to guarantee northern support during his presidential campaign and unity within the Democratic Party. Southern Manifesto demonstrated the different perspectives of white politicians in the South. Many individuals were against the idea of integration and believed whites should only have the freedom to obtain an education, in order to remain superior to African Americans. However, some southern politicians believed integration would unite the North and the South and grant the politicans more political power.
In response to Faubus’ action of not allowing the African American students into Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas, Martin Luther King Jr. dispatched a telegram to President Eisenhower urging him to “take a strong forthright stand in the Little Rock situation”. King told the president that if the Federal Government did not take a stand against such injustice, it would “set the process of integration back fifty years. This is a great opportunity for you and the federal government to back up the longings and aspirations of millions of peoples of good will and make law and order a reality” (King, 9 September 1957).
Orval Faubus (1910 – 1994) was the Governor of Arkansas from 1955 to 1967. On September 4, 1957, the first day of classes at Central High, Governor Orval Faubus of Arkansas called in the state National Guard to cease any African American students from entering the school. Later in the month, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered federal troops to escort the nine African American students safely into the school for their first full day of classes on September 25.
As public schools were forced to integrate, the incident at Little Rock Central High School became a major event in the Civil Rights Movement. The students who planned to be a part of the integration at Little Rock Central High School, the Little Rock Nine, were met head on with the defiance of Governor Orval Faubus and the Arkansas National Guard. Dwight D. Eisenhower referred to Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution, which gives the President the power to call a state’s militia into “service of United States,” when he subjected the Arkansas National Guard to his authority. Once blacks were able to attend the high school they thought they would have freedom to take many different courses and would have freedom to participate in athletics and dramatics. However, the integration process would not be as smooth as anticipated, and the students who volunteered to integrate Central High would be prohibited from participating in extracurricular activities. Unaware of the severity of the mob and Orval Faubus’ plan to deny them access, the nine students arrived on campus alone. Guards were eventually assigned to escort each student and mirror him or her throughout the school day. A national symbol of integrating integration, the story of the Little Rock Nine story depicts the “white” and “black” perspectives on integration.
One of the most influential members for the Little Rock Nine was Daisy Bates. An activist for civil rights, and dedicated member of the NAACP, she was one of the foremost mentors for the Little Rock Nine. At an early age she experienced discrimination in a local meat market that served strictly white customers. This developed her personality and habits of questioning, asserting, and demanding, while she challenged an entire educational institution. Daisy Bates and her husband administered a newspaper, The Arkansas State Press, which focused on the Civil Right Movement and the issues in African American communities. She became a leading
spokesperson for the integration of Central High and was an active participant in the court case Cooper v. Aaron (1958). Criticizing racism, The Arkansas State Press attacked police brutality, segregated schools, and the corrupted judicial system. Also the newspaper heavily supported candidates who were in favor of Bates’ political views. The newspaper greatly influenced African American communities and influenced their roles in the Civil Rights movement. Her role in the Civil Rights Movement caused her to be a top target for discrimination and hate crimes. The crimes dealt with burning crosses, vandalism, and an incendiary bomb that was thrown on her property.
A powerful image of Daisy Bates displays her mentoring some of the female members of the Little Rock Nine. The image shows how her perspective on integration was respected and portrayed through the acts of the Little Rock Nine. As a motivational African American, she symbolizes the power her words had on the students and the manner in which her pride was infused into their attitudes. Her perspective was that blacks would adjust to white hatred in order to integrate and would not be suppressed by discrimination. Bates’ actions resulted in huge strides for the Civil Rights Movement.
Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan
Coming from a strict, old-fashioned home, Elizabeth Eckford always aspired to go to college, but was limited by the dual educational system’s lack of equality. On September 4, 1957, she approached the school alone. Having been stopped by the National Guard, she attempted to walk in the street when the crowd surged towards her. Eckford explains that on the day that she was finally allowed to attend Central High, her mind was full of uncertainty and nervousness. She reflects on that day, remembering that once white students discovered the Little Rock Nine were in the school building, some panicked and jumped from
second-floor windows. Eckford believes that the photographs depicting the angry mobs and violence toward the African American students wer the predominant reason President Eisenhower took control.
One of the most memorable and iconic photographs produced during the Civil Rights era depicts Hazel Bryan shouting in anger at Elizabeth Eckford. On the morning of Eckford’s first day at school, news channels depicted large crowds gathering to protest. Her mom mentioned, above all else, to pretend not to hear them and express kindness to everyone. In the photograph, her calm face and expression of determination represented exactly what her mother suggested. Attempting to sort through the crowd, protesters were heard yelling, “Lynch her! Lynch her!” Hazel Bryan was one of the protesters who was yelling hysterically and tormenting Eckford. The focal point of this famous picture is the expression of extreme hatred on Bryan’s face as she was caught mid-sentence with her furious, wide mouth open. Hazel Bryan, later, withdrew from Central High and never spent a day attending school with African American students. After protesting against the African American students, she was able to further grasp racial hatred through Martin Luther King’s speech and the treatment of African American protesters. Hazel Bryan responded by calling Elizabeth Eckford and apologizing. These two individuals depict the clash of white and black students. Hazel Bryan, a white student, portrays herself with emotions dominated by anger and her unwillingness to attend school with African Americans. Elizabeth Eckford, a black student, represents herself as confident and determined to obtain an equal education. As years passed, she became involved in politics and peace activism, even accompanying African American students. from Little Rock. on trips to experience the outside world. Bryan and Eckford gradually began to encounter each other more often and formed a close relationship. However, many of the Little Rock Nine shunned Hazel, and even Elizabeth Eckford was unsure of her true intentions. Even white students that attended Central and did nothing wrong still felt that the photograph continued to haunt them. Following a reunion that Hazel attended and a trip to the Oprah Winfrey Show, she felt the awkwardness and racial tensions, and decided to end her relationship with Eckford. Eckford once said, “True reconciliation can occur only when we honestly acknowledge our painful, but shared, past.”
In early 1961, James Meredith applied to Ole Miss, also known as the University of Mississippi, to become the first African American to attend an all-white college in Mississippi. Meredith’s acceptance caused much tumult and uproar in the South. Governor Ross Barnett defiantly opposed the integration of Ole Miss and used legal, judicial, legislative, and political influence to prevent James Meredith’s admission. President Kennedy provided for Meredith’s safety by ordering over twelve thousand armed troops to help keep order. Meredith eventually broke the racial barrier in Mississippi by graduating in 1963.
Alice Jackson and Gregory Swanson
In 1935 Alice Jackson applied for admissions to the University of Virginia’s graduate program. Before 1920, she was turned down because of her gender, and in 1935 she was rejected because of her race; both attempts show the impact of the Jim Crow Laws in Virginia. The General Assembly countered with a law giving Jackson a grant to enter an out of state college where she finished her master’s degree at Columbia University.
Alice Jackson’s legacy was followed by the story of Gregory Swanson in 1950, when he entered the University of Virginia’s law school, with the assistance of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Using their help, Swanson was able to begin the process of obtaining the privilege of African Americans to attend the University of Virginia. The following year a second African American student was accepted and soon followed by many more.