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1957: Troops end Little Rock school crisis

AUDIO : America's President Eisenhower warns against mobs race actions

Nine black children have finally been able to attend Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. But they had to be surrounded by more than 1,000 US paratroopers to protect them from segregationist whites.

On the orders of President Dwight D Eisenhower, the troops arrived last night in full battledress with fixed bayonets and rifles and took over from local police following three weeks of disturbances.

The children, six girls and three boys, had to walk through a cordon to get to the school building.

Outside about 1,500 whites demonstrated and at least seven were arrested.

Inside, students were warned by the commanding officer, General Walker, that anyone who disrupted the school day would be handed over to local police.

Symbol of southern resistance

In 1954 the US Supreme Court ruled segregated schools were unconstitutional.

The decision was prompted by a case brought by the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People) on behalf of a black schoolgirl from Kansas forced to attend a blacks-only school.

But Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus refused to abide by the ruling.

Little Rock became of symbol of southern resistance to government attempts to desegregate American society.

On 2 September this year the governor ordered Arkansas state troops to stop the nine black children attending school. Three weeks later he was forced to withdraw them by a federal judge.

But a white mob took over the streets and the mayor of the city appealed to the president to help to control the situation.

The southern governors are meeting today to find a way of persuading the president to withdraw the troops.

After yesterday's disturbances, the city was calm.

But once the troops are gone it is feared the white mob may retaliate against the 30,000 black residents at Little Rock, especially leaders of the NAACP.

In Context
A year later Little Rock's white residents voted to close the high schools rather than keep them open on a desegregated basis.

They re-opened as desegregated schools in 1959 after the Supreme Court refused to allow them to be turned into private schools and therefore be exempt from desegregation.

Governor Faubus' resistance to integration was popular with locals and he remained governor for the next ten years. In 1986 he ran for governor once more but was beaten by Bill Clinton.

In 1964 the Civil Rights Law prohibited racial discrimination in education, employment or in public places.

However, the move to desegregate schools received a setback in 1974 when a Supreme Court decision banned plans to mix schools across city-suburban boundaries. It has meant central city schools have become increasingly attended by non-white students.


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