On this day, September 23, in the year 1957, a group of black students, who became known as the “Little Rock Nine", were forced to withdraw from an Arkansas High School by an angry mob of violent white segregationist.
The “Little Rock Nine” were nine African-American students involved in the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. Their attempted entry into the school sparked a nationwide crisis when Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, in defiance of a federal court order, called out the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the Nine from entering the school on September 4, 1957. The sight of a line of soldiers blocking the black students from attending high school made national headlines and polarized the nation. The Nine remained at home for more than two weeks, trying to keep up with their schoolwork as best they could. When the federal court ordered Govenor Faubus to stop interfering with the court’s order, Faubus removed the guardsmen from the front of the school.
On September 23, the Nine entered the school for the first time. The riotous white crowd outside chanted, “Two, four, six, eight…We ain’t gonna integrate!” and beat reporters who were covering the events. The angry crowd refused to disperse. The Little Rock police, fearful that they could not control the increasingly unruly mob in front of the school, removed the Nine later that morning. They once again returned home and waited for further information on when they would be able to attend school. Not one person who participated in the violent and criminal activity of September 23, 1957 was arrested or prosecuted.
Calling the mob’s actions “disgraceful,” Eisenhower called out 1,200 members of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division—the “Screaming Eagles” of Fort Campbell, Kentucky—and placed the Arkansas National Guard under federal contol. On September 25, 1957, under federal troop escort, the Nine were escorted back into Central for their first full day of classes.