Sept. 4, 1957 - Students of Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., including Hazel Bryan, second left, shouts insults at Elizabeth Eckford, second right, walking past a line of National Guardsman, not shown, who blocked the main entrance of the school. One of nine black children who endured angry white mobs to integrate a Little Rock, Arkansas high school in 1957.
(Photo courtesy of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette)
Black History is American History.
Gah. Such bravery. I don’t know if I could face that.
In Spring 1960, Ruby Bridges was one of several African-Americans in New Orleans to take a test to determine which children would be the first to attend integrated schools. Six students were chosen, however, two students decided to stay at their old school, and three were transferred to Mcdonough. Ruby was the only one assigned to William Frantz. Her father initially was reluctant, but her mother felt strongly that the move was needed not only to give her own daughter a better education, but to “take this step forward … for all African-American children.”
As soon as Bridges got into the school, white parents went in and brought their own children out; all teachers refused to teach while a black child was enrolled. They hired Barbara Henry, from Boston, Massachusetts, to teach Bridges, and for over a year Mrs. Henry taught her alone, “as if she were teaching a whole class.” That first day, Bridges and her adult companions spent the entire day in the principal’s office; the chaos of the school prevented their moving to the classroom until the second day. Every morning, as Bridges walked to school, one woman would threaten to poison her, because of this, the U.S. Marshals dispatched by President Eisenhower, who were overseeing her safety, only allowed Ruby to eat food that she brought from home. Another woman at the school put a black baby doll in a wooden coffin and protested with it outside the school, a sight that Bridges Hall has said “scared me more than the nasty things people screamed at us.” At her mother’s suggestion, Bridges began to pray on the way to school, which she found provided protection from the comments yelled at her on the daily walks.
The Bridges family suffered for their decision to send her to William Frantz Elementary: her father lost his job, and her grandparents, who were sharecroppers in Mississippi, were turned off their land. She has noted that many others in the community both black and white showed support in a variety of ways. Some white families continued to send their children to Frantz despite the protests, a neighbor provided her father with a new job, and local people babysat, watched the house as protectors, and walked behind the federal marshals’ car on the trips to school.
[image: photo of Ruby Bridges as a young girl — tense look on her face, hair pulled back, carrying a plaid bag and wearing a dress, sweater, black shoes with white socks, and a white flower in her hair — walking down the school steps, accompanied by a white US Marshal.]
[image: old black-and-white photo of a black person leaning against a large tree, under a sign that says “THIS IS A WHITE AREA”.]
Remembering the Little Rock Nine:
On the morning of September 23, 1957, nine African-American teenagers held the line against an angry mob protesting integration in front of Little Rock’s Central High School. As the students met their new classmates for the first time inside the school, outside violence escalated and the Little Rock police removed the Nine from the school for their safety. The next day, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division into Little Rock to escort the nine students into the school. One of the nine later remembered, “After three full days inside Central, I knew that integration is a much bigger word than I thought.“
This event, broadcast across the nation and world, was the site of the first important test for the implementation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision of 1954. Arkansas became the epitome of state resistance when the governor, Orval Faubus, directly questioned the authority of the federal court system and the validity of desegregation. The crisis at Little Rock’s Central High School forced the nation to resolve to enforce African-American civil rights in the face of massive southern defiance during the years following the Brown decision. [Source]
[The 9 Pictured above: Thelma Mothershed Wair, Elizabeth Eckford, Gloria Cecelia Ray, Jeffrey Thomas, Melba Pattillo Beals, Ernest Green, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Minnijean Brown, and Terrence Roberts. The 9 pictured below: Jeffrey Thomas, Minnijean Brown, Gloria Cecelia Ray, Elizabeth Eckford, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Terrence Roberts, Thelma Mothershed Wair, Melba Pattillo Beals, and Ernest Green.]