Timeline of Little Rock School Integration

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Background

In September 1927, Little Rock Senior High School opens. Costing more than 1.5 million to construct, the school is opened for white students only. Two years later, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School opens for African-American students. The school’s construction cost $400,000 with donations from the Rosenwald Foundation and Rockefeller General Education Fund.

1954

May 17: The U.S. Supreme Court finds that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional in the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.

May 22: Despite many southern school boards resisting the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Little Rock School Board decides to cooperate with the Court’s decision.

August 23: The Arkansas NAACP Legal Redress Committee is led by attorney Wiley Branton. With Branton at the helm, the NAACP petitions the school board for prompt integration of public schools.

1955:

May 24: The Blossom Plan is adopted by the Little Rock School Board. The Blossom Plan calls for gradual integration of public schools. Beginning of September 1957, the high school would become integrated followed by lower grades over the next six years.

May 31: The initial Supreme Court ruling provided no guidance on how to desegregate public schools yet acknowledged the need for further discussions. In another unanimous ruling known as Brown II, local federal judges are given the responsibility of ensuring that public school authorities integrate “with all deliberate speed.”

1956:

February 8: The NAACP lawsuit, Aaron v. Cooper is dismissed by Federal Judge John E. Miller. Miller argues that the Little Rock School Board acted in “utmost good faith” in establishing the Blossom Plan.

April: The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds Miller’s dismissal yet made the Little Rock School Board’s Blossom Plan a court mandate.

 

1957

August 27: The Mother’s League of Central High School holds its first meeting. The organization advocates for continued segregation in public schools and files a motion for a temporary injunction against integration at Central High School.

August 29: Chancellor Murray Reed approves the injunction arguing that integration of Central High School could lead to violence. Federal judge Ronald Davies, however, voids the injunction, ordering the Little Rock School Board to continue with its plans for desegregation.

September: The local NAACP registers nine African-Americans students to attend Central High School. These students were chosen based on their academic achievement and attendance.

September 2: Orval Faubus, then governor of Arkansas, announces through a televised speech that African-American students would not be allowed to enter Central High School. Faubus also orders the state’s National Guard to enforce his orders.

September 3: The Mother’s League, Citizen’s Council, parents and students of Central High School hold a “sunrise service.”

September 20: Federal judge Ronald Davies orders the National Guard to be removed from Central High School arguing that Faubus has not used the them to preserve law and order.

Once the National Guard leaves, the Little Rock Police Department arrive.

September 23, 1957: The Little Rock Nine are escorted inside of Central High School while a mob of more than 1000 white residents protest outside. The nine students are later removed by local police officials for their own safety. In a televised speech, Dwight Eisenhower orders federal troops to stabilize violence in Little Rock, calling the behavior of white residents “disgraceful.”

September 24: An estimated 1200 members of the 101st Airborne Division arrive in Little Rock, placing the Arkansas National Guard under federal orders.

September 25: Escorted by federal troops, the Little Rock Nine are escorted into Central High School for their first day of classes.

September 1957 to May 1958: The Little Rock Nine attend classes at Central High School but are met with physical and verbal abuse by students and staff.

One of the Little Rock Nine, Minnijean Brown, was suspended for the remainder of the school year after she reacted to consistent confrontations with white students.

1958

May 25: Ernest Green, a senior member of the Little Rock Nine, is the first African-American to graduate from Central High School.

June 3: After identifying several disciplinary issues at Central High School, the school board requests a delay in the desegregation plan.

June 21: Judge Harry Lemly approves the delay of integration until January 1961. Lemly argues that although African-American students have a constitutional right to attend integrated schools, the “time has not come for them to enjoy [that right].”

September 12: The Supreme Court rules that Little Rock must continue to use its desegregation plan in place. High schools are ordered to open on September 15.

September 15: Faubus orders four high schools in Little Rock to be closed at 8 am.

September 16: The Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (WEC) is established and builds support to open public schools in Little Rock.

September 27: White residents of Little Rock vote 19, 470 to 7,561 in support of segregation. The public schools remain closed. This becomes known as the “Lost Year.”

1959:

May 5: Members of the school board in support of segregation vote not to renew the contracts of more than 40 teachers and school administrators in support of integration.

May 8: WEC and a group of local business owners establish Stop This Outrageous Purge (STOP).

The organization begins soliciting voter signatures to oust the school board members in favor of segregation. In retaliation, segregationists form the Committee to Retain Our Segregated Schools (CROSS).

May 25: In a close vote, STOP wins the election. As a result, three segregationists are voted off the school board and three moderate members are appointed.

August 12: Little Rock public high schools reopen. Segregationists protest at the State Capitol and Governor Faubus encourages them not to give up the struggle to keep schools from integrating. As a result, the segregationists march to Central High School. An estimated 21 people are arrested after police and fire departments break up the mob.

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Lewis, Femi. "Timeline of Little Rock School Integration." ThoughtCo, Feb. 4, 2017, thoughtco.com/little-rock-school-integration-timeline-45460. Lewis, Femi. (2017, February 4). Timeline of Little Rock School Integration. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/little-rock-school-integration-timeline-45460 Lewis, Femi. "Timeline of Little Rock School Integration." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/little-rock-school-integration-timeline-45460 (accessed November 23, 2017).